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Finding Fertile Ground

Aliea Moore Grows in Faith, Thrives through Notre Dame College Community

Aliea Moore said she feels as if she has been planted at Notre Dame College.

And she is flowering.

The criminal justice major, a first-generation college student, has not been without trial on her postsecondary path: nearly diverted by an armed service and a different school, almost sidetracked by the uncertainty of family job loss and practically spent by the necessity of off-campus jobs.

But through prayer and perseverance, with the nurturing of a campus community bonded by both, Moore has not only weathered the deterrents but found her fertile ground at Notre Dame.

“Everyone that I’ve come in contact with here cares about me,” Moore said. “And when I say that they care, they genuinely care. People really have my back and believe in me.”

The road not taken

Notre Dame wasn’t the first choice for Moore, who attended the selective Jane Addams Business Careers Center vocational high school in Cleveland and was dual enrolled at Cuyahoga Community College. She planned on joining the Air Force, mainly to make a living—and elude student loans—to aid her family of five younger siblings.

Even after she realized her academic achievement could help cover the cost of a degree, she originally picked Spellman College, a historically black liberal arts institution in Atlanta. But she had second thoughts about the sameness.

“As I was going through high school, I decided I wanted to go to a college where everyone was different. I felt that kind of experience would better help prepare me for the real world, a world that was diverse, where everyone didn’t look like me,” she said.

Moore considered small religiously affiliated colleges outside of Ohio but decided she would be more comfortable if she stayed closer to home. She had lived in Cleveland her whole life and became interested in Notre Dame when her high school guidance counselor gave her the admissions application. She was accepted, and with academic scholarships, grants and financial aid, the College became affordable.

“Notre Dame has been a really good experience for me,” she said. “I live with strong morals and values, and to be somewhere where the atmosphere is faith based—and I can be myself no matter what I look like or where I come from—is amazing to me.”

The way side

But the weeks leading up to her first year at Notre Dame were anything but fruitful. Both of her parents lost their jobs, and not even this College was affordable anymore.

I was afraid. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to go to school, so I prayed and prayed,” she said “But I knew if I didn’t take care of myself by getting a degree, I wouldn’t be able to help others who have helped me, especially my family. And that’s what I want to do, to give back to others.”

So Moore went on faith to Notre Dame—and took on two jobs, one a work-study position in the registrar’s office, to pay for her expenses and what financial aid didn’t cover.

Then, her mother was hospitalized with blood poisoning in her chest. And Moore’s position in the registrar’s office was discontinued at the end of her first year on campus. But the young woman with drive and conviction would not be discouraged.

“God places opportunities in front of you, but you still have to work hard,” Moore said. “He’s going to come through for you, but you have to work to get where you need to be to experience the blessing.”

Moore worked two off-campus jobs through the summer, and hope came at home. Her parents started to work again. But her family had deficits to fill first, so Moore’s future at Notre Dame was anything but certain.

She prayed for aid with tuition again come fall.

About three weeks before the start of her sophomore year, Moore received a letter from the College: She had been awarded an additional scholarship, one she had never heard of, for which someone at Notre Dame had nominated her. She said she still does not know who recommended her.

"I just try to do my work and to work hard, she said. Then to get an extra scholarship, just for doing my work… There are so many good people here at this College, so many I don’t even know yet."

A stone’s throw

But even with that additional financial assistance, to help her family and make her tuition payments during fall 2012, Moore took on four different off-campus positions—including the graveyard shift at a gas station to which she walked to work. Her course load that semester: 17 credit hours.

“It was so terrible some nights, but I needed the money,” she said. “Then I was working so much I couldn’t get my homework done. That’s when I realized I needed something else.”

So she prayed and stayed on her path.

Midyear, a position as a resident assistant (RA) came open on campus, and Moore, only a sophomore, who did not know about the job—and, again, had not applied—came highly recommended.

“I had thought about being an RA before. I just couldn’t afford to not work, but the confidence people on campus have shown in me is amazing. It’s been amazing for me,” she said. “I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to learn.”

So she quit the financial security of her off-campus positions and became an RA in Petersen Hall on a floor with 30 students, many of whom are older than she. Her course load: 19 credit hours.

And she didn’t disappoint.

“Aliea has grown so much over the semester,” said Tera Johnson, director of residence life at Notre Dame. “She has grown leaps and bounds as an RA and as a young woman.

“Being the oldest child in a large family, Aliea is used to taking responsibility and not asking for help,” Johnson continued. “She is fantastic at helping the girls on her floor do the same. She is really helping them to become young adults and young professionals.”

A clear career path

Now Moore’s tuition is paid. Her mom has recovered. Both parents have found jobs, and Moore, without the external pressures, is realizing her potential.

“Working as an RA here on campus, my maturity has skyrocketed,” she said. “I am so different in the things I think, the things I notice. I just want to keep feeling like I’m growing.”

And not just as an RA but also with regard to her career goals.

Now, Moore who grew up in the same Wade Park neighborhood as Stephanie Tubbs Jones—the first African American and first female prosecutor in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, as well as the first African-American woman to sit on the Common Pleas bench in the Buckeye State—is focused long term on becoming a family lawyer, and eventually a family court judge.

“I want to be on the kids’ side. I want to try to understand where they are coming from,” she said. “I’m passionate about kids, but I’m passionate for the law, too. I want to put them together.”

Moore said she has always been drawn to court dramas, litigation reality TV—and her younger siblings. She wants to be a voice for those similar to her little brothers and sisters who are without someone to protect them.

“Ms. Moore is the classic example of an individual who puts others before herself,” said Ronald E. Matthews Jr., assistant professor of history and political science and Moore’s academic adviser. “What makes her stand out is not that she is simply serving, because there are many here at Notre Dame College who do the same. What makes her unique and special is that this spirituality and servitude is woven through the fabric of who she is: She does not have to consciously think about doing it—she just does. And it is contagious.”

And if something happens and she decides not to go to law school after graduating from Notre Dame in 2015, Moore said she may join the Air Force or another armed service then, as an officer, and get her J.D. that way—to become an attorney dedicated to aiding military families.

“Life is totally what you make it, and, somehow, God made a way for me at Notre Dame,” Moore said. “I am not only the first person in my family trying to finish college, I am going to take that degree and live the life I have my heart set on.”

Matthew 13: 1-8

1 That same day, Jesus left the house and sat by the lakeside 2 but such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there. The people all stood on the shore 3 and he told them many things in parables. He said, Listen, a sower went out to sow 4 As he sowed, some seeds fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up 5 Others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up at once, because there was no depth of earth 6 but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away 7 Others fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them 8 Others fell on rich soil and produced their crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.