Monday, April 23, 2018

Graduate Profile: Challenge after Challenge for this Graduating Mom


Keonya Milam of Nashville will most likely appear a poised 31-year-old as she walks across the stage at the Vol State spring graduation ceremony. The graduation program will probably list her as an honors student. That grace, and 3.9 GPA, will make complete sense to everyone who sees her. But most will have no idea of the battles she fought, and the mountains she climbed, to get to that stage. Most Vol State graduates work hard to earn their degrees. Milam had to overcome challenge after challenge in a journey that took her from a .08 GPA to student leader.
“I just hit rock bottom,” Milam said. “I was tired of working dead end jobs. I knew God was pulling me.”
That was just one of several rock bottom moments for the Nashville mom. Her current Vol State experience is just one of several trips through the higher education system. So, we need to back-up a bit. Her first time was attending Tennessee Tech as a teenager.
“I fell in love with this guy and by the end of the first semester we moved in together. After the next semester I just stopped going to class. I let school go.”
She went back to college, this time at Nashville State.
“That’s when we hit rock bottom and the abuse started. That’s why I had to withdraw from Nashville State. I moved out while he was at work.”
Milam got to her feet again and enrolled at Vol State. She soon found she had another big challenge.
“I didn’t know I had dyscalculia. It’s like dyslexia, but with numbers. I knew I struggled in math, but I never let it get me down. I just worked around it. I made an A in Algebra thanks to LaDonna Yarborough at Vol State.”
Life was going well and Milam had a new boyfriend, but the challenges were by no means over.
“Then Jason gets in trouble for the first time in his life, legal problems. I had to withdraw from Vol State. And then I found out I was pregnant. Ten days after my baby was born Jason went to prison for two years. When he got out, neither of us were the same person.”
Jason had found his footing and supported her through LPN school at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology- Nashville.
“I worked as an LPN, but I decided to come back to Vol State in 2016 to work on my nursing degree. They combined my GPA from all of my college classes and it was .08. I didn’t know it was that low. I had the mindset by then that I’m going to shoot for an A. I made an A in Anatomy and Physiology (One of the toughest classes at Vol State-Ed). I made all A’s the second semester. God saw more for me than I saw for myself.”
With new found confidence, she even used her math skills to help other students as a Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leader. SI Leaders are students with a strong grade in a class who then lead extra work sessions in later semesters of the class.
“I’ve helped so many people as an SI. Not to brag, but it feels great to have someone tell me that I helped them get an A. One thing I love about Vol State is all of the self-help options, between the Learning Commons for help with math homework, Tutor.com for help with a paper late at night to Supplemental Instruction. With all of that you have no reason to not succeed. Don’t be ashamed to say you don’t know something.”
Milam now has two daughters, two-year-old Jaleah and seven-year- old Kammora. Jason is doing well and busy with church activities. Keonya said her next step will take her to the Lipscomb University nursing program where she was recently awarded a competitive Transfer Trustee Scholarship.
“She is a force on this campus who drives other students, faculty, and organizations to push for academic excellence and enhance the community here at Vol State,” said instructor of Chemistry, Chrysa Malosh.
Recently Keonya organized a memorial for her friend and classmate Lexus Williams, who was gunned down a few weeks ago in an alleged incident of domestic violence. More than 100 people attended the outdoor event, blowing bubbles into the sky in memory of Lexus.
Milam said her faith has kept her going through those eight years of challenges. “God kept me together when I felt like I was going crazy.”

3 comments:

Nicole Hicks said...

Wow Mrs Milam! I want my daughters Kam and Leah to be just like you! Thank you for giving life your all!

Sylvia Johnson said...

God bless you baby, I am so proud of you, you deserve all of this and more. Keep up the good work, Love you Baby your Grand Mother.

Erica said...

Beautiful story! You're an inspiration to so many. #proud
Wish you the very best at Lipscomb!!