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I am an adult reentry student who dropped out of a civil engineering degree ten years ago to work in kitchens. During the third year of cooking while earning my degree, I decided I liked food much more than calculus.

 

I still love everything about restaurants. I love the history and the lore, the passion and the people, the long hours, mean chefs, and superfluous foul language. Kitchens are where I grew up. They taught me everything I know about family. Two years ago the pandemic hit the food and entertainment industry hard, hitting hardest on those who could least bear the burden. I lost my job in early 2020, and many others lost their businesses and livelihoods to COVID-19. I was powerless to help because the damage had already been done – small food service businesses simply did not have the resources to prepare themselves for the pandemic.

 

I want to do something about it.

 

I plan to become a CPA specializing in small business. This goal drives me, it sets the standard for my work ethic and is the basis for any success, but it has not been an easy road. My academic credentials and financial resources coming into my accounting degree were not great. To catch up, I took over 45 credit hours in the Maricopa County Community Colleges District during the course of an academic year.

 

I was extremely honored to receive a GK Legacy Foundation award in 2021, which allowed me to take the next step in my education. Without your kind help, I would have been financially unable to attend the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University where I am currently in the junior year of my Bachelor’s degree in Accountancy.

 

In that application, I wrote that your award did not guarantee me a degree but granted me the opportunity to earn it. I have spent the last year striving to live up to those words. In early 2021, I worked an internship at a newly established virtual Volunteer Income Tax Preparation site run by the International Rescue Committee. The site served every IRC client in Arizona, and the nature of the organization meant I was working with hundreds of refugees and members of the general public in an untested program during a turbulent tax year. I worked with a national team to aid low-income communities hardest hit by the pandemic while navigating cultural and language boundaries, learning the tax code, keeping up with COVID tax relief measures, and developing virtual tax preparation processes on the fly.

 

During this time, I also helped the IRC write a government grant proposal for an Individual Development Account matching program to help refugees in Phoenix build personal assets and completed an Honors project on the accounting application of a data analytics tool known as Benford’s Law. More recently, I have begun working a part-time student position in the accounting department of an affiliate of ASU. In this position, I am receiving practical experience in a wide variety of accounting fields through special projects with ASU's Research Enterprises. Throughout these opportunities, I have maintained a 4.0 GPA in my schoolwork. For the first time in my life, I find this level of effort easy to commit to my education. Day by day, I learn new skills that I can return to the restaurant industry with and contribute to small businesses. I truly believe in the tools accounting is giving me to help business owners survive present economic distress and begin sustainable financial recovery.

 

That belief embodies an essential part of what your organization does: I am no longer powerless in my endeavor. Two years ago, I was a college drop-out who could cook a mean steak facing a job market where my next meal was uncertain. Today, I am firmly on the path to a degree I thought I would never achieve, gaining skills I can use to empower others in attaining their dreams. An education has helped me to grow not just my skill set, but the faith in myself to contribute meaningfully to my community. I have the passion, the drive, and I have gained the ability to follow the GK Legacy Foundation’s lead in making the world a better place.

 

And I can still cook a mean steak.

 

AMANDA LITTLE

ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY – ACCOUNTING MAJOR

MEET AMANDA LITTLE

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