Eating Grapes and Enlightening Students

PROVO, Utah – Mar 03, 2021 – After struggling through her high school Spanish class, Erin Kenedy, a junior from the School of Accountancy at the BYU Marriott School of Business, vowed never to speak Spanish again. When she received her call to serve a Spanish-speaking mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Lima, Peru, she dreaded needing to continue learning Spanish. However, this was one of many life experiences that led her to the strong belief that learning is not just about gaining knowledge but about experiencing growth.

As the current co-president of Aspiring Leaders Pursuing Higher Achievement (ALPHA), a nonprofit organization that offers a variety of educational resources, Kenedy is passionate about providing opportunities to underrepresented students. “At ALPHA, we teach free ACT prep courses at two high schools in Utah County,” she says. “The ACT is a huge obstacle for students who don’t have the funds to take other prep courses. After the course we taught in October 2020, the average ACT score of our students increased by five points, which is insane. I feel awesome knowing that what we’re doing at ALPHA can change the trajectory of the colleges that our students can apply to in the future.”

ALPHA also helps students at BYU. “We have mentorship programs at BYU for first-generation college students,” says Kenedy, a native of Cary, North Carolina. “We recently raised more than twenty-five thousand dollars to help students who were impacted financially by the coronavirus pandemic. Our organization works to break the poverty cycle, which we hope has an effect on people's lives and the lives of their children down the road. Watching these students grow in their education is incredibly rewarding.” 

Kenedy's contributions to help other students in their educational pursuits don’t stop with ALPHA; she is also a TA for the Accounting 200 class at BYU Marriott. “Often I help a student who doesn’t understand a certain topic, and then they leave our meeting saying, ‘Oh, wow, that makes so much sense,’” she says. “Watching a student learn how to figure out the problem and then seeing their love of accounting blossom feels great.” 

Kenedy’s passion for teaching and learning extends outside the classroom as well. She co-founded BYU’s Enlightenment Society, an academic society where students can come together and teach one another about their favorite topics. “One day I was talking to my friend David Parkinson, who is the other co-founder and president of the Enlightenment Society,” says Kenedy. “We both felt frustrated that we were so caught up in getting good grades that we weren't enjoying the process of learning.

“We thought back to the Age of the Enlightenment, where people would sit around and talk about theories and eat grapes,” she continues. “We wanted to start a society like that at BYU, where people could discuss subjects that we don’t necessarily learn in our majors but are still passionate about. We meet once a month and talk about these topics. I love accounting, but I also have a variety of other interests, and exploring those is so much fun.”

As she looks forward to her future, Kenedy believes her background in accounting will allow her to incorporate her varied interests into her career. “I see accounting as a solid background for any job in business. I want to go into management consulting to begin with, but who knows where I’ll go from there?” she says. “I hate the idea of closing doors, and I know that majoring in accounting won’t close a single door in my life; accounting keeps my options completely open.” 

Erin Kenedy
Erin Kenedy
Kenedy is the current co-president of the nonprofit organization, ALPHA. Photo courtesy of Erin Kenedy.
Kenedy is the current co-president of the nonprofit organization, ALPHA. Photo courtesy of Erin Kenedy.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Sarah Calvert