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Q&A: Meet Isabella Small

Meet Isabella Small, a recipient of the Alisa's Angels scholarship. Coming from Tempe, Arizona, Isabella recently graduated from Arizona College Prep High School and is heading to Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University. She will be studying Psychology and Organizational Leadership, with big plans to shake up the workplace. Isabella wants to tackle the unhappiness many workers face and the high turnover rates that companies struggle with. Her story has inspired us to spread positivity.

What inspired you to apply for the scholarship?

When I read the description that Alisa believed that we help others because “that is what we were put on earth to do,” it truly resonated with me. I was inspired by the idea that Alisa’s memory would be honored by recognizing those who also shared a passion for community service and helping others.

Can you share a moment or experience from high school that shaped who you are today?

During school, a note was delivered to me. My principal took the time to write that he was “impressed with [my] leadership skills and teamwork… [I am] kind, firm, empathetic and driven…” Initially, I was glowing from the compliment. Then I realized the power of shining a light on others. I’ve since adopted my principal’s leadership technique, writing detailed positive note cards of gratitude weekly. Valuing and appreciating those around me has become a significant part of who I am today.

Who has been your biggest role model or mentor and how have they influenced your journey?

My older sister Sophia, who has a severe form of autism called Rett Syndrome, has been one of my biggest role models and influences on my journey. Many people might wonder how someone who I can’t share conversations with could be my role model—but watching her every day inspires me. It takes incredible strength and resilience to constantly cope with taking medicines, seizures, communication frustrations, and fatigue. However, seeing her be able to face these challenges with a positive spirit has truly shaped me. She reminds me to stay strong, be courageous, and most importantly, to laugh. Her squealy dolphin giggle is absolutely one of my favorite sounds and reminds me to always find light in dark moments.

What are you most excited about as you embark on your future plans?

I am extremely excited for the connections I will get to make throughout my college experience. As a people-person, I always do my best to seek out valuable friendships and relationships that help me grow. Being in the honors college at ASU will hopefully lead to amazing connections with classmates, professors, and university staff.

How do you hope to make a difference in your community or field of study?

My career goal is to change the state of employment that we currently see in 2024– an increasing number of workers are simply unhappy. Meanwhile, companies are stifled by high employee turnover. We normalize stress and act only when we reach unproductive levels. Pursuing a degree in organizational leadership & psychology will apply concepts from psychology to businesses, increasing productivity. Adding my specific focus in positive psychology will introduce the secret ingredient for success: happiness. When people feel good, they work great. I aspire to pursue a career that will cultivate a win-win for everyone!

What is a personal achievement or milestone you are particularly proud of?

Community service is a huge piece of who I am. A personal achievement I’m particularly proud of is the Gold, Silver, and Bronze Presidential Youth Volunteer Service Awards I’ve received for the numerous hours I devote to serving charities and philanthropies in my local community because it helps showcase my passion for giving back to others.

What are some of your favorite hobbies or interests outside of academics?

Volunteering in clubs and organizations is my jam! As a passionate advocate for women empowerment and equality, I’m proud to have led my school’s chapter of the UN Girl Up organization and served in Girl Scouts creating workshops and camps to empower young girls. Through National Charity League, I’ve loved volunteering 300+ hours to meaningful causes. Mixing my personal passion for positive psychology with volunteering, I created a Happy Space Club at ICAN (non-profit after school support for underprivileged youth), where I volunteer with children monthly to share inspiration, positivity, and gratitude through collaboration activities.

How does your high school experience prepare you for your future endeavors?

My high school experience has prepared me for future endeavors by helping me determine my values and the person I strive to be. These core values include leadership, positivity, community, and kindness. Through rigorous classes, multiple extracurriculars, and endless passion projects, high school has taught me that I want to be a giver, a supporter, a motivator, and an action-taker.

Can you share a challenge you’ve overcome and what you learned from it?

In April 2022, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. With an independent girlboss attitude, I had become determined to power-up–all by myself. Carbs, shots, sugar levels–if it was going to be done, I had only one response. “I will do it.” After a few months, I realized this independent mindset was actually limiting my potential to grow and support the hundreds of T1D teens in need of a community. I’ve since founded a successful Type 1 Diabetes Youth Connect network. My source of pride has changed from being able to claim “Me do it” to being able to exclaim “WE do it!”

What advice would you give to future applicants of the Alisa’s Angels Scholarship?

“We rise by lifting others.” It’s one of my favorite sayings and a core belief I remind myself of daily. I hope that future applicants of the Alisa’s Angels Scholarship know how valuable helping and supporting others in their community is. It should be collaboration, not competition, that fuels us to rise up and be amazing people.


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