Ƶ State alum’s inspiring, full-circle journey

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jun 7, 2024

Miyanna Clements-Williamson
Miyanna Clements-Williamson’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of resilience and the importance of finding community.

When she first stepped on Ƶ State University’s campus, she was classified as a McKinney-Vento student, a designation given to high school students who have experienced homelessness.

“I was alone, and I was overwhelmed,” Clements-Williamson said. “It was difficult being in a new place and navigating being a first-generation college student.”

Raised by a single mother who passed away unexpectantly while Clements-Williamson was in high school, she spent the next year shuffled around to other family members. Despite the shock and grief, she was determined to pursue her education. A phone call from a staff member at Ƶ’s Campus Awareness, Resource, and Empowerment (CARE) Services introduced Clements-Williamson to the resources provided to McKinney-Vento students. Impressed by the personal attention she received, Clements-Williamson decided to enroll at Ƶ.

“The staff at CARE Services showed up for me from Day One,” she said. “They helped me get comfortable in different environments and pushed me to explore college without worrying about housing and food insecurity. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

CARE Services offers Ƶ students several support programs including financial assistance, access to food pantries, temporary housing, and case management.

Staff at CARE Services connected Clements-Williamson to a variety of leadership opportunities. As an undergraduate student, she served as house manager for the first cohort of the , created for students who have dealt with homelessness, food insecurity, or the foster care system. She also conducted research which she presented at a national conference with funding from CARE Services.

“I started to realize all the things CARE Services helped me with and became inspired to give back and provide resources to other students,” said Clements-Williamson, who would go on to attend graduate school.

After being accepted into Ƶ’s Master of Social Work (MSW) degree program, Clements-Williamson served as an intern, graduate research assistant, and AmeriCorps VISTA for CARE Services, contributing in various ways to the organization that supported her as an undergraduate student. She worked on emergency assistance and case management for Ƶ students and prepared a road map for other universities to create a similar program for their students.

“It’s a full-circle moment,” she said. “I sat in that chair. Now, I’m on the other side working with students in that chair. I know it’s uncomfortable for them, but I can tell them that I’ve been a CARES student and I’m someone they can trust. It’s rewarding for me to relate to them and explain that I can help them be successful in whatever they want to do.”

Lauren Padgett, director of CARE Services, said Clements-Williamson has been a standout student from the beginning.

“It has been a joy to watch how Miyanna has grown from a student who faced adversity into a beacon of hope for others,” she said. “Her determination, relatability, and unwavering passion for helping others has had a profound impact on so many of our students, and I can’t wait to see how she will help others in the future.”

As a graduate student, Clements-Williamson also worked at a Veterans Affairs clinic, was part of a research team developing mental health software for Cobb County first responders, and served as President of Phi Alpha, the honor society for social work students.

At the 2024 hooding ceremony for MSW students, Clements-Williamson was awarded Student of the Year honors.

“She has been an advocate for herself and for many other students on campus, not just in this program,” said Monica Nandan, director of strategic partnerships and social impact and professor of social work and human services.

Clements-Williamson has made her mark at Ƶ and will continue to positively impact others as she begins a new adventure on the West Coast. She is one of two students selected for a prestigious post-MSW fellowship in clinical social work at the University of California, Berkeley.

“I am ready and determined to use my incredible experiences and education at Ƶ to make a difference in the lives of others,” she said. “I am so grateful for all the mentors who have supported my journey and never gave up on me.”

– Story by Abbey O’Brien Barrows

Photos by Judy Pishnery

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Ƶ State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Ƶ State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Ƶ State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.