AnnaRae Hammes arrived at Clemson University a week before classes started with little more than a duffle bag and a borrowed computer.
Now, she is one of the newest graduates of the Class of 2022. Her journey from an impoverished Charleston-area community to Clemson’s campus has meant more than earning a degree. She’s pursued a lifelong goal, fueled by passion and supported with generous scholarships that, Hammes explains, have changed the course of her life.
More than a college. A calling.
During high school, Hammes visited several colleges, but, she explains, none of them felt quite right.
Then one weekend, while traveling to the mountains with her uncle, she drove through Clemson. She loved the landscape, and the students looked happy — something she felt was missing from other schools. “I looked at the trees. I looked at the scenery. I looked at everyone studying,” she recalls. “As soon as I came to Clemson, it was a calling.”
Motivated by her desire to attend Clemson, Hammes worked hard and pushed the limits to graduate high school and get accepted. But just weeks before she was scheduled to arrive for her first year at Clemson, she realized the challenges before her might be insurmountable: Financial aid and scholarships might not be enough to cover the cost of her tuition; she didn’t have a car or any other means to travel from the Lowcountry to campus.
So, she started communicating with Clemson’s Office of Student Financial Aid. Director Elizabeth Milam did more than answer Hammes’ call; she changed the course of her life. “Elizabeth told me to just get here, and they would make sure we figured it out,” Hammes says.
When her uncle helped her with a car, everything truly began falling into place for Hammes. Clemson’s financial aid office, spearheaded by Milam, made sure she had the support she needed to achieve her goal of earning a Clemson degree.
A life-changing difference
“Scholarships made a huge difference because I didn’t have to work, which was the best option for me. I was able to fully immerse myself in Clemson,” Hammes says.
She joined Alpha Phi Omega (APO), a national service fraternity and the University’s second oldest student organization, pursued a degree in biology initially, and then she switched to English with a minor in communications studies.
Throughout her undergraduate career, she remained undeterred by hardship; where she found opportunities, Hammes seized them.
“Clemson has definitely changed me,” she says. “Before coming here, I took care of my siblings, my family and my friends. Clemson made me take a look at myself.”