Just like many college students, Jaecy Hebrlee spent most of her time at Pittsburg State University trying to determine what to do with her life, when the answer was staring her in the face all along.

“I was starting my senior year in college, so I was really confused and I was really unhappy in the different areas I had already tried,” said Hebrlee, who grew up in Garden City. “I just didn’t know or understand how to translate what I love into a career.”

After speaking to the campus activities director at Pitt State, Hebrlee realized that she wanted to help students, just like herself, find their direction in life.

“I have had the time of my life in college. I may not have always known what I wanted to do, but I knew this was the atmosphere that I really enjoyed being in, and I really want to be that role model for someone else. I want students to be able to come to my office and say, ‘Jaecy, I don’t know what I’m doing. Please help me,’” she said.

The decision paid off almost immediately as Hebrlee recently was awarded with the Region IV West Undergraduate Rising Star Award, one of the highest honors given to undergraduate students by the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA).

“For the state of Kansas, I beat out everyone, all the NASPA people involved from KU and K-State, Wichita, all the Kansas kids,” Hebrlee said.

NASPA is the one of the leading associations for the advancement, health and sustainability of the student affairs profession. Its Rising Star Award recognizes students for their involvement on campus and leadership skills.

Hebrlee, who graduated from Pitt State on Dec. 12 with a degree in general studies, was nominated for the award by David Adams, former assistant director for campus activities at Pitt State.

“Jaecy impressed me with her passion, dedication and enthusiasm for the co-curricular aspect of the university and her intended pathway to a position in student affairs,” Adams wrote in the nomination letter.

Her involvement at Pitt State is surprising to even her, because while attending Garden City High School, she rarely stepped outside of her comfort zone to get involved.

“I kind of stuck close to the people in music and theater, and I didn’t really go outside my bubble because I wasn’t athletic; I couldn’t play sports to save my life,” Hebrlee said.

In her first year at Pitt State, Hebrlee joined a sorority, Alpha Sigma Alpha, which she said helped her break out of her shell.

“Being in a sorority gave me confidence, it gave me something to be passionate about and it pushed me to do better in school, because you have to maintain a certain GPA to stay in the sorority,” Hebrlee said.

She credits her involvement in Greek life for helping put her on her own career path in student affairs.

Hebrlee is now enrolled at the University of Arkansas, where she will pursue a master’s degree in higher education, with an emphasis in student affairs administration.

“My main goal, upon completing my master’s, is to be a Greek life advisor/director at a division I university,” Hebrlee said, adding that at some point, she would like to work for a national fraternity.

Her passion for Greek life translated into her leaving a lasting legacy at Pitt State, where she developed and taught a course called Vision and Values, which not only promotes involvement in Greek organizations, but also brings the leaders of those organizations together.

“I want to give the leaders of these organizations the resources that I’ve been exposed to, and I want them to know that this is about our community and this is about our values, and who we are as an organization — that we’re not just individuals trying to reach individual goals, but that we’re also meeting a group goal, and bringing about a sense of cohesiveness in our community on campus,” she said. “The first two classes have been wildly successful, and I’m really excited for the future of that class.”