Twelve students open up about overcoming adversity

Courtney James, a Kent State Stark student speaks of transferring colleges and finding herself.

Faith Riggs

Life has its hardships, and for 12 Kent State women, their journey to Kent State has not been an easy road.

Mental health and divorce are just a few of the stories the women shared during the Sage Project.

“I’m here,” said senior public relations major Arkayla Tenney-Howard. “That is an accomplishment for anyone that knows my story and knows that I’m here right now, in this room, in Kent, Ohio. I am in college, and I am alive.”

During her freshman year, Tenney-Howard struggled with feelings of inadequacy and not feeling enough. She couldn’t shake the feeling, and during her sophomore year she was tasked with a project for a mental health awareness campaign.

While researching suicide, she found herself thinking about how she could. In mid-October of that year, she was hospitalized overnight for suicide ideation.

“There’s nothing wrong with getting help,” Tenney-Howard told the audience, “especially as a woman of color, we’re expected to be strong all the time. I’m not completely healed, but I’m here and I’m very happy about that.”

Senior advertising major and Women’s Center intern Mayra Pacheco, helped organize the event but also attended in support of Tenney-Howard.

“We all have our personal struggles and stuff that we don’t really share with anybody,” Pacheco said. ”I knew what (Tenney-Howard) went through because I’ve known her before she went through her struggles, but she didn’t know that I was going to be here.”

Modupe Apetuje, a doctoral student of podiatric medicine, was a nurse before pursuing her lifelong passion to become a doctor.

She moved from Texas to Kent, and during her first semester she divorced her husband.

“A close friend of mine said, ‘I don’t know how you’re going to do medical school with a kid being a single mom, just give up now,’ Apetuje said. “ I said, I am not going to give up.”

She never gave up, even when things were too overwhelming.

“My daughter has been such an inspiration,” Apetuje said. She has pushed me to my limit, everytime I look at my daughter I think, ‘this girl is watching me, I can’t quit.’”

She hopes her story will inspire someone to pursue their passions.

“Whatever barrier you have, whatever glass ceiling, don’t just break it. Absolutely annihilate it. You can do anything,” Apetuje said.

Summer Wigley, a Women’s Center graduate assistant said she enjoyed being apart of so many women sharing their powerful experiences.

“I think it’s important to share those stories and have those narratives because they make up who we are and the things that we experience,” Wigley said.

Faith Riggs is the Women and Gender Issues reporter. Contact her at [email protected].