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A family’s pursuit of higher education

Alisha Rorer is a 2003 graduate of Russellville High School. She recently received her doctorate degree from St. Louis University in St. Louis, Mo.
Alisha Rorer is a 2003 graduate of Russellville High School. She recently received her doctorate degree from St. Louis University in St. Louis, Mo.

Families support us in tough times and when life seems to be too much. And families push us when we need that extra motivation. And sometimes, when a family does both, great things can come from it. For Alisha Rorer, a 2003 Russellville High School graduate, her family was a central factor in her recent achievement.

Rorer recently received her Ph. D. in Family Therapy from St. Louis University in St. Louis, Mo. Rorer is the fifth member of her family to receive their doctorate—an impressive feat by anyone’s standard.

Rorer said her family has been a motivating factor in her journey to the degree.

“My family really values education and they always have for as long as I can remember,” Rorer said. “They always framed education as a gateway to other things in life.

“My family always drilled it into us that education was very important,” Rorer said. “They always placed a lot of importance on getting our education.”

Rorer said that her family was always supportive of her decisions when it came to what she was doing and where she would go in order to continue her education.

“I started at NWSCC in Phil Campbell and then moved to Atlanta to attend Clark University,” Rorer said. “And moving away from home was never an issue because everyone was supportive of whatever I needed to do in order to pursue my education.”

Luckily for Rorer that was the case as her journey didn’t stop in Atlanta.

After graduating in the top ten percent of her class at RHS, Rorer attended NWSCC in Phil Campbell on a Martin Luther King, Jr. scholarship as well as a men’s basketball managerial scholarship. After transferring to Clark Atlanta University she received her B. A. in psychology and graduated cum laude in 2007. From there her journey just got going.

In 2009 she continued her studies at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. She received her master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and graduated magna cum laude. Her thesis while at Kentucky centered on intergenerational patterns of fatherhood roles and the relationships between black fathers and adolescent sons—a focus that she would continue in her next step.

Her doctoral studies began in 2011 at St. Louis University where she served as a research assistant to Dr. Dixie Myer and Dr. Bobbi Miller and was chosen to participate in the minority doctoral fellowship program funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

“I’m very family oriented and wanted to do some research into topics that I feel are very important,” Rorer said. “That is why I have chosen the path that I have.”

Rorer’s cousin, Jason Robinson, said that it is impressive when anyone receives their doctorate degree, but that having multiple doctorate degrees within the family is special.

“I was an army kid and never grew up in Alabama,” Robinson said. “But I came to Russellville in the summers. The family there is close, and the people in the neighborhood where I spent my summers growing up are a tight-knit group. They were always a source of inspiration and motivation.”

Robinson is one of the five members of the Russellville family to receive their doctorate degree.

“At some point all you will have is family,” Robinson said. “And to have such a large and supportive family is special to me. I know it helped me when I was going through school and I’m sure it helped Alisha as well.”

Rorer said there is a list longer than her arm of people who helped her along the way.

“My mom and dad did so much for me,” Rorer said. “From middle school and high school going forward they sacrificed and supported me in everything I did. They wanted me to be successful and did whatever they could in order to see that happen.

“My aunt Mollie Hamilton, Carolyn Brown, Evylyn Groce, Cynthia Robinson, Carolyn Hillman, Virgil Rorer and my brother A. J. were so supportive of me all throughout school,” Rorer said. “My aunt Reginia and my uncle Eugene Bonds and Bobbi Jean Martin—these are all people who supported and sacrificed for me as I pursued my education.”

But family is often times not limited to just blood relatives. Sometimes there are teachers, coaches, and mentors that fill the role as family as well.

“Some of the classes I took while at RHS helped me pinpoint what it was I wanted to do with my future,” Rorer said. “The faculty and staff at the Russellville City Schools were great for me. People like Coach Earl Jones really took the time to show me what was available to me and what I could do in the future.”

Rorer said her plan for the future is to return to Atlanta and start a private practice there to help serve the community.

“I want to serve underrepresented populations by reaching out and providing therapy to families and individuals as well as continue research in the social science and behavioral health fields,” Rorer said.