Kent State student overcomes life obstacles to graduation

Bianca’s graduation headshot from 2011. Courtesy of Bianca Crawford. 

College graduate, graduate student, wife, mother, activist, author and more. Over the course of 15 years, Bianca Crawford has earned each of these titles to her name, but her college career unfolded in a more unconventional way than most students experience. 

“I graduated high school a year early from Bedford High School, and I was accepted to 22 different colleges and universities,” Crawford said. 

Crawford is from Cleveland, but she attended 17 different schools throughout her life and did well in high school. 

Crawford attended Kent State in 2005 to study criminal justice, because she had family attending the university. She received a few scholarships to help her get by but still owed around $5,000 for the semester, until she was able to sign up for a credit card outside the MACC Center. She was able to pay for the semester but was at a loss for books and necessities for her dorm. 

“My freshman year [first semester] I think my GPA was a 2.0, and I was devastated, but I wasn’t going to give up,” Crawford said.

The following semester she was able to earn more financial aid but still struggled with classes. She was then placed on academic probation. 

Her sophomore year she returned to school and searched for more financial aid opportunities but was halted due to her grandmother’s passing.

“I was trying to grieve and go through school, and I ended up failing sophomore year … so I ended up back on academic probation with the chance of being dismissed,” she said. 

The first semester of her junior year started on a good note, as she was doing well in classes. 

“Second semester I got into a domestic violence relationship,” Crawford said. “I had moved off campus. I lost my house. I was homeless. I was living in my car. I was actually sleeping in front of Kent Hall every day.” 

Crawford was able to maintain a strong GPA throughout her junior year but began to struggle again senior year after moving back in with her abusive boyfriend. Regardless, she was able to walk the stage for graduation in 2011, to later find out that she did not pass her classes. 

“At that time I just gave up,” Crawford said. “I was devastated.”  

After failing classes, Crawford decided it was time to take a break from school. During this time, she met her husband and moved to Nashville. She took two semesters of classes in 2013 and 2014 at Kent State as she traveled back and forth between Nashville and Ohio but was at a loss as to how to continue since she had used all of her loans and grant funds. Crawford took a break from school again from 2014 to 2019, with only two semesters left to complete.

In 2019, she started working for the federal government in the Department of Defense as a defense finance and accounting-contact representative, where she was offered tuition assistance as an employee. She thought it was the perfect time to return back to school, but she knew she still owed Kent State money. This is when she reached out to financial aid and eventually to Alison Murphy, manager of the collection’s department in the Bursar’s office. Murphy saw how driven Crawford was in her work and wanted to help her as much as possible.

“She [Crawford] was so motivated,” Murphy said. “She’s just highly motivated and persistent. Seeing someone like Bianca succeed is rewarding to everyone: to the university, to me, to our staff, to Bianca, to her whole family.” 

Working together with the collections department, Crawford’s Perkins loans were relieved with the public service loan forgiveness program. Her loans and prior term balances were consolidated and paid off by the end of August 2019. She then was put into the degree completion program to complete her bachelor’s degree and was given $500 from the program for her last two semesters for books and other necessities. She ended up owing a total of $10 to return to school with the help from the bursar’s office. 

“Our main goal is to help a student be successful,” Murphy said. “Whatever we can do to remove those barriers, we try to do.” 

Crawford then went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in integrated studies at Kent State and her associates in chronology in correction at the Kent State Stark campus and ended both semesters with a 4.0 GPA. She will continue her graduate studies in human development and family services at Kent State this fall. 

For Crawford, failure was not an option. She knew it was up to herself to succeed in her goals. 

“Everything’s not going to always go as planned or what society says it’s supposed to be like,” Crawford said. “You will have trials and tribulations, but you have to make up in your mind that you’re going to be successful.”

That mentality is amongst the many that Crawford teaches as the founder and director in her nonprofit, Motivated and Empowered Inc. Since 2012, they have been working with young girls to help with self esteem and educational difficulties, teaching ideas like self-esteem, suicide prevention and how to start a business. 

“Bianca answered the call placed on her heart to take her experiences and make sure that no other girl has to experience the same pain,” as stated on the Motivated and Empowered Inc. website. “She knew that pain she had experienced was not for her but for the lives she would change and save. Motivated and Empowered Inc. was started because that’s what pushed her past her pain..motivation and self-empowerment. Teaching girls these same skills will help them overcome some of the issues they deal with daily.”

Crawford is also the author of three books, all of which were published this year. 

“My first book is called ‘Broken To Grace,’ and it’s about how life breaks you, but God has given you different promises and you have to learn how to get to that place of his promises from your brokenness,” Crawford said.

Her other two, “I’m Just a Girl and I Like It” and “Beautifully Broken Prayer Journal for Women” are prayer journals for teenage girls and women, respectively. She wrote these books in the midnight hours in hopes of helping someone else with the same problems she has faced before.

Along with everything else she’s accomplished, Crawford hopes to have her own all-girl youth center in the future. 

“I know the end goal that I want, I know how successful I want to be,” she said. “And that will keep me going.”

 Contact Kelsey Paulus at [email protected].