Aliayah Coleman

First-Generation Graduate Creates Lasting Legacy Among Peers, Mentors

Aliayah Coleman has an infectious smile that radiates positivity. That positivity along with her drive has led her to the stage of Coleman Coliseum where on Aug. 6 she’ll receive her bachelor’s degree in accounting and then jet off to her new job with BNY Mellon, a corporate investment banking firm in Everette, Massachusetts.

A first-generation college student from Decatur, Coleman said the strong academics and energetic campus atmosphere drew her to The University of Alabama.

“It was definitely the degree programs in both accounting and theatre,” she said. “As soon as I got on campus and in this environment, that was it.”

Coleman immediately sought community in groups like the Legacy Scholars, a program that supports incoming freshmen who are first-generation students from limited-income homes and students with disabilities, as well as Ignite UA, an organization promoting the empowerment of young women to become political leaders. She then became a mentor to students who were following in similar footsteps.

“I was definitely impacted by those programs and wanted an opportunity to give back,” she said.

One of Coleman’s mentors, Dr. Amy Salazar, executive director of the Capstone Center for Student Success, said that Coleman’s desire to help others was evident.

“She consistently went above and beyond the requirements of mentoring and gave of her time and talents to ensure the students she was mentoring were successful and supported,” said Salazar.

Along with Salazar, Culverhouse Colleg of Business’ Quoc Hoang and Sophia Kennedy were among the faculty Coleman looked up to the most as her own mentors.

And that admiration goes both ways.

“When I think of Aliayah, a smile immediately comes to my face,” said Hoang, director of experiential learning at Culverhouse. “I have witnessed her persistence and positivity as she navigated her path to graduation. I’m inspired by what she’s accomplished and can’t wait to see how her next chapter in life unfolds.”

Kennedy, who taught Coleman’s Accounting II course, agreed.

“Although she faced a lot of personal struggles outside of the classroom as well as academic struggles with this particular course, she kept a positive, upbeat attitude,” Kennedy said. “I was so proud of the dedication, drive and hard work she exhibited last semester.”

Aliayah Coleman at the First Generation Spot in Hewson Hall.
Aliayah Coleman at the First Generation Spot in Hewson Hall.

That drive in the classroom was rewarded in many ways. In her time at the Capstone, Coleman has been tapped for the President’s List, Dean’s List, Most Optimistic Award from the Student Support Services – TRIO Program and the Academic Certificate of Distinction from the Black Faculty Staff Association for maintaining a GPA above 3.5. She was also instrumental in promoting the First Generation Spot in Hewson Hall, a gathering space for first-generation students to study or just have fellowship.

Among these accolades and her coursework, Coleman still found time to write and illustrate a children’s book titled Sekaniah.

“It’s an adventure book for elementary school-aged children that I plan to publish this fall,” she said. “I was inspired by my grandmother who passed away. She loved children and I felt like this book was something she would want to do so I’m doing it in her honor.”

Coleman’s minor is theatre, which might seem an unlikely choice for an accounting major, but it was a perfect pairing in her opinion.

“I took an accounting class my senior year of high school and I fell in love with it. It’s like solving a puzzle,” she said. “I also did a few years of theatre in high school and at UA and loved that as well.” Coleman said her dream job would include both. “I do want to open a theatre one day and handle the business side of it.”

Earning her bachelor’s degree is not the final step for Coleman. She intends to immediately pursue her master’s in accounting through The University of Alabama Online while working full time.

Salazar said she would expect no less from someone as driven as her mentee.

“I know that Aliayah will be an incredible ambassador for The University of Alabama, taking the growth and development she gained here to change the world around her,” she said. “In the four years I have known her she has faced incredible personal circumstances that would have derailed so many people, but not Aliayah. She is a driven and passionate woman who knows her dreams and is not afraid to take on any obstacle she faces.”


Jennifer Brady, UA Strategic Communications,