Athena Mitchell, Class of 2012
Greetings and Talofa! Talofa is the Samoan way of saying “Hello!” My name is Athena Tuilefano Mitchell and I grew up on the island of American Samoa - a tiny island in the South Pacific. I attended Leone High School in Samoa, and graduated in 2007. After I graduated, I moved to San Diego to attend college. At the time, I wasn’t certain about which college I wanted to attend so I began my educational journey at Southwestern Community College. I wasn’t sure about which university I wanted to transfer to, but I definitely knew that I wanted to attend a prestigious university that would provide me with a well-rounded education, preferably in San Diego.
I remember my first campus tour here at USD and thinking, “Wow, this is definitely where I belong!” Just like I imagine it would be for most first-time visitors, I was immediately drawn in by the beautiful campus, which reminded me of a perfect setting straight out of something to the likes of Mr. Roger’s neighborhood. I also remember the impressive presentation that was put together by the transfer program, which only added to my interests. Though at the time I honestly had no idea how either I or my parents could finance the tuition, I refused to let it be a deterrent and was determined to find a way to make it work, because I was certain that I wanted to attend USD and was willing to do everything in my power to get here and succeed. Despite knowing that the chances of getting accepted were slim due to the school’s selective process, I applied, and in the process I’m sure I annoyed the transfer counselor a bit with my constant inquiries to ensure that they received all of my necessary documents!
The day I received my acceptance letter was one of the greatest days of my life. It marked a new beginning in my life; a time for change and personal growth. So far, my experience at USD has been enriching in many aspects. This past summer I had the opportunity to go on the 3-week study abroad program in London, which turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The study abroad program experience helped me grow as person, as it challenged me to be independent and broaden my perspective of the world and different cultures. Not to mention that it also established my newly found love for high tea sessions.
On campus, I am an active member of a new group called ReAct, which is an improv troupe dedicated to inspiring change in our social, political and environmental realities. Our first group event on campus took place during the “Take Back the Night” rally in which we improvised different emotional situations and had audience members step in to alter the image into an image of self-empowerment.
Being able to perform and entertain has always been a passion of mine. It was a journey trying to decide on a major, and it wasn’t until I transferred to USD that I finally was comfortable enough to declare my major in Theatre and Performance Studies. Many people have asked what I plan to do after I graduate, especially being a Theatre and Performance Studies Major. My goal is become an A-list actress. Though it may seem to be a bit far-fetched, I strongly believe that just as it is possible for me to be the first on both sides of my family to attend college, let alone a prestigious university like USD, it is also possible for me to achieve ambitious goals. I remember when I filled out the scholarship questionnaire and it asked what my career goal was. I thought to myself, “why not just be 100% honest and put A-list Actress?” What’s the worst that could happen, right? I suppose it was that way of thinking that got me here today.
This is the first scholarship I have ever received – and I have applied for quite a few. Prior to this, I couldn’t imagine that one day I would be standing up to give a thank you speech. With that being said and considering my goal IS to be an A-List actress, I WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE ACADEMY! I am deeply honored and humbled for being chosen and will consider this honor as a blessing and a reminder to be a blessing onto others, as you all have been to me. Thank you and Fa’afetai, fa’afetai lava!