AIKCU Voices: Kayla Smith, Union College

For 2020 we’ve been asking students and alumni of Kentucky’s independent colleges and universities to share something about their college experiences in a series we’ve been calling AIKCU Voices. If you’d like to share your story, email us at

Portrait of Union student Kayla Smith

As a Barbourville native, higher education was a crucial choice for me when considering my options for the future. The opportunity for higher education is a huge privilege, especially coming from a poverty-stricken community such as Knox County, but Union College provided me the chance to begin paving my dream of success through earning a degree! I knew that if I could take my years at Union and make good use of them, I could change my family’s entire trajectory for the generations to come, all starting with a degree. Union was a sure-fire choice when choosing colleges because it continued to provide me with the safe and family-oriented feel that I can call my home within my hometown!

College does have its obstacles that each student has to overcome, and for most, the biggest obstacle is finances. Financially, if Union wouldn’t have had so many opportunities for scholarships, I would have not been able to pursue my dream of earning a degree! Coming straight out of high school as a first-generation student, Union helped me to transition smoothly into college thanks to all of the faculty and staff that made me feel at home! Union gives students the chance to gain new relationships within a close-knit student body and explore who they are as go throughout their college years. Union has so many opportunities for students to step outside their normal box and explore new interests through the many clubs and student activities that are provided on campus. 

Kayla Smith
Barbourville, Ky.
Union College