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A tough childhood, extreme poverty fueled Tarleton’s commencement speaker to reach success.

Alyssa Ewell

TSU Media Relations

A rough start instilled unswerving determination in Alyssa Ewell, who will collect her MBA and deliver the 9 a.m. commencement address at Friday’s Tarleton State University graduation ceremonies.

Alyssa grew up in the high desert town of Delta, Utah, where harsh realities shaped her tenacity.

She had an abusive father with alcohol dependency and spent much of her childhood in extreme poverty, she said.

“I talk about that. I talk about the fact that those kinds of experiences don’t have to define you. Just getting to college can be a huge struggle for people. I shoplifted my groceries my first three years of college because I didn’t have the money for rent and food. I’m not proud of that, but I did what I did to survive.

“I don’t think people want to talk about their struggles, they find it embarrassing, and I want everyone to understand that you can come from that kind of background and everything you’ve done is still valid.”

Alyssa knew early on that those formative lessons would stay with her. Then involvement in Future Farmers of America gave her promise and a fresh path.

“The biggest driver of success for me is that I was so involved in FFA in high school,” she said. “I loved agricultural education from the time I attended my first class. I felt tied to the need to tell people about where their food comes from.”

A first-generation college graduate, Alyssa earned a degree in agriculture education at Utah State before looking around for a master’s program. She found that and more while working at national FFA in Indianapolis.

That’s where she met Russell Ewell.

They married in 2015 and moved to Texas. The couple now make their home near Iredell. Her father-in-law, Frank Ewell, taught agricultural economics at Tarleton for 35 years.

“We’ve always been a very Tarleton-oriented family,” Alyssa said. “We always felt at home here.”

Her ag ed degree began paying dividends when she joined the company started by her brother-in-law.

The business is based on a computerized system of scoring FFA competitive events.


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