Highlands Circle Spotlight: Elisa Jacobs

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Elisa Jacobs serves as Assistant Director, Enrollment Management, at Lenoir-Rhyne University Center for Graduate Studies of Asheville. She's also a member of Highlands Circle, a network of passionate young professionals looking to change the odds for families and Buncombe County communities through positive, lasting change. We get to know her a little better in this month's HC Spotlight.

Elisa Jacobs AshevilleWhat is the last movie you watched? I’m a terrible movie-watcher! I have the hardest time sitting still, so I usually end up multi-tasking around the house as one plays in the background. The last movie I watched all the way through without working on several other things at the same time, was Away We Go with John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph.

What is the last song you listened to? Father John Misty's “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me.”

What is your biggest accomplishment? Failing – a whole lot – but being willing to take accountability and focus on what I can do even better the next time.

If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be? Tell your story. Because I work in higher education admissions, I have the privilege of hearing peoples’ stories every day. I don’t memorize facts like test scores or GPAs, but I remember essays, conversations, and the connections I’ve made with applicants who have given me a glimpse of who they really are. I recently heard from an applicant who is interested in graduate school again after deciding she wasn’t ready to start when she was first admitted. I vividly remember reading her admissions essay almost a year and a half ago because the story she told was so poignant, a welcome contrast to the countless purpose statements that document superlatives and structured self-confidence. I've learned that what makes us extraordinary is how we tell the story of our ordinary lives. Be memorable – tell yours.

Why do you LIVE UNITED? I spent the first 16 years of my life overseas because of my Dad's job as a State Department Foreign Service Officer. Some of my first childhood memories are of the stark contrasts between the rich and the poor in third-world countries: multi-block mansions decorated with a gallery of sports cars, neighboring tin and cardboard shacks perilously on the brink of being washed away in a storm. Years ago, my Dad, who had been a Peace Corps volunteer with my Mom in the first years of their marriage, wrote me a letter describing what is like to feel poverty in one’s bones, to truly understand what it means to be born into a world without the right to education or healthcare. I’ve hung onto that letter as a reminder of why I want to invest in my community and change lives. Stateside, I’ve found that the contrast between the rich and the poor may not always be quite as exposed as I experienced in Latin America, but it still exists. I LIVE UNITED because I want to contribute to reducing disparities in health care, education, and income.

Why did you get involved with Highlands Circle? I moved to Asheville in my mid-20s and spent a long time seeking a group of like-minded young professionals with similar values to my own, especially an interest in meaningful volunteer work. When I discovered Highlands Circle several years later, I knew right away that I had found the group I’d been looking for. I got involved with Highlands Circle because I want to improve the community I live in through giving, advocating, and volunteering.

What is your favorite quote or motto? "Work hard. Be kind." My parents said this to my two brothers and me growing up. I’ve tried to carry it into my personal and professional life as an adult. I think of it as my guiding principle. When I am working hard and being kind, I find that I feel more courageous in and connected to the community I live, work, and learn in.

Each month, we shine a spotlight on a member of Highlands Circle, a group for leaders in their 20s and 30s. If you are interested in being highlighted, please contact Kristina.Dionne@UnitedWayABC.org or call (828) 239-1049.

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