On May 9, Daysha Humphrey will proudly walk across the stage of Rent Auditorium to accept her degree in communication.
This story sounds commonplace, especially on the campus of Mississippi University for Women, but just four years ago, Humphrey's life took a drastic turn.
The then 17-year-old West Lowndes High School senior was president of the Beta Club, playing basketball and volleyball and a member of the track team. It also was the same year she learned that she was expecting.
"It was very hard being a single parent. I was considered the sweet kid in the school," Humphrey said.
While her mother, Shelia Henry, was disappointed about the news, Humphrey said, it was her mother who pushed her and helped her through high school.
"I'm here for you no matter what," she recalled her mother saying, noting that her mother picked up her class work and took care of her daughter when needed.
After Humphrey's daughter, Carmen, arrived, she found new motivation. "I put all of that aside and worked harder than before."
"I wanted to be like my mother and be there for my child no matter what," Humphrey added.
Her determination paid off. The same year, she was named valedictorian of her senior class.
In fall 2011, Humphrey entered The W's nursing program as a freshman. While The W was the perfect fit for her, Humphrey decided that nursing was not her calling and changed her major to communication. "I've always loved writing, and realized this was the perfect major for me," she said.
However, almost two years into her studies, Humphrey was concerned about the timing. "I thought it was going to be a setback. I felt down about the situation," she added.
Humphrey kept pushing forward. She took classes through what is now known as the Student Success Center. During fall 2011, she took the learning skills class along with other intermediate courses. The following semester, she started taking general education core classes and passed all of them by using study techniques taught during the learning skills class. Humphrey realized that taking summer classes also would help, so she took three to 12 hours per term.
"I worked closely with Daysha by making sure she kept up with her assignments by writing down the due dates in a planner. She would color code each class and used the MUW planner to keep up with this information," said Rosamund Claudia McDavis, retention specialist. "She also learned in Learning Skills how to read and mark her text. This too she color coded and used sticky notes. She would come by my office after her classes when she was preparing for tests. We would organize the material on note cards and she would rewrite her notes."
Humphrey said she knows she would not be where she is today without the help of God. Also, as part of the process, Humphrey said she learned "To never give up and be patient. You don't know what you can do until you put your mind to it."
Humphrey's story is one of the many coming out of The W's Student Success Center, which started July 2014. The center, led by Dr. David Brooking, is focused on retaining and graduating students. It also offers learning skills courses and seminars, career planning, developmental instruction, peer tutoring and other support services. In addition to the director, a retention specialist, a career specialist, student success specialist, an assessment specialist and navigators are a part of the Student Success Center team. There are four navigators, one for each college, who have dual responsibilities with the center, as well as their respective college. Their goal: to support students from admission to their programs through completion of their degree.
"The navigators are really able to focus and connect with the students and guide them to the resources available to them." Brooking said. "I think we will see a lot of positive things from these relationships."
An Early Alert system, which warns students about unsuccessful behaviors, is one of the many ways The W keeps students connected to the university. An enhanced process now includes the navigators, who are able to help close the loop and resolve student issues, according to Brooking. "It's a great system. I think it's going to have a great impact just from the personal impact they have with the students," Brooking said.
Humphrey is well on her way. Earlier this semester, she was invited to become a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success and she took the Graduate Record Examinations. She will be applying to the University of Alabama with hopes of earning her graduate degree in journalism.
For more information about the Student Success Center, visit www.muw.edu/ssc.