Ripon student prepares for career as vocational rehabilitation counselor

Alexis Riggs

Ripon College sophomore Alexis Riggs of Ripon, Wisconsin had challenges as she prepared to achieve her dream of higher education. She is a first-generation college student from a family with limited means, and she was born missing the lower part of both arms. But with a lot of determination and a lot of help, her dreams are coming true. The Wisconsin Grant is part of her financial aid package.

Alexis is majoring in anthropology and minoring in sociology at Ripon College. She plans to go on to graduate school to study vocational rehabilitation counseling and become a rehabilitation counselor.

She wants to help people with disabilities get the resources they need to get jobs. She says that being a person with a disability and having her own counselor gives her a unique perspective that will enhance her ability to advocate for others with disabilities.

She already is getting practical experience. Since May 2018, she has been a job coach for Diverse Options in Ripon. She accompanies people with disabilities to their community workplaces and helps them develop the skills they need to succeed.

On campus, she works for the Office of Financial Aid and tutors in anthropology and sociology at the Franzen Center for Academic Success.

She also participates in Love Your Melon, an organization that supports the fight against pediatric cancer; is a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority; and is on the executive board of Panhellenic Council.

“I really enjoy getting involved on campus,” Alexis says. “The groups I am involved with have philanthropies and ways of helping people. I make blankets for Children’s Hospital and have gone to Milwaukee and Madison to volunteer at Ronald McDonald House, so I’ve been able to really get involved through these organizations.”

Having a strong financial aid package relieves the worry she might have had otherwise. “A lot of students can’t afford college as it is really expensive,” she said. “Money is a really big issue for students like myself. . . [Students] may have to work instead of doing homework. I think it’s really helpful that organizations and people are willing to give to students.”

Sources like the Wisconsin Grant, provided by the Governor and Legislature, are important. “It’s really helpful because I don’t come from a wealthy family,” Alexis says. “It’s nice to have financial support from people who don’t really know me. I’m getting these kinds of scholarships and grants so I can get my education and continue on to grad school.”

She says her family is really proud of her, “especially being first generation and having a disability. They don’t always know how to help me because they haven’t experienced this kind of thing. So it’s been really awesome to them and to me.”

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