‘I Don't Believe Kent State Will Ever Not Help You’

First-generation, non-traditional student Yalanda Cunningham knows that Kent State has her back

Yalanda Cunningham is a strong believer in education.

“I believe you can go so much further in your life,” Cunningham said, “if you had a solid background in education.” 

Cunningham is a first-generation, non-traditional student from Kalamazoo, Michigan. After graduating with her associate's degree from a community college in Kalamazoo, Cunningham decided to finish her bachelor’s degree at Kent State University. 

“I didn't want to stop at just my associates, I wanted to finish the rest of my degree,” Cunningham said. 

Cunningham stands firm in her belief that financial circumstances should not hinder a student’s ability to earn a degree. For her, that meant being willing to do whatever it took to be successful, including taking out loans and picking up extra shifts at work.

Cunningham said she was both amazed and grateful to learn she was eligible for scholarship funds from Kent State that helped make her tuition more affordable. They also provided her with that ability to participate in experiences she didn’t think would be available to her – including a month-long education abroad experience in Italy. 

“I've always wanted to do something like that, but I never thought that a person like me could have that opportunity to go,” Cunningham said. “But the school helped make that happen, and I was able to go overseas and learn about a different culture.”

Kent State offers various types of aid, including scholarships like Flashes Go Further, grants, loans and federal work study programs. During her time as an undergraduate student, Cunningham received several scholarships from the university.

“I was shocked,” Cunningham said as she described her reaction to finding out about the aid she received. “I think I just yelled the whole time where I was, wherever I was going – it may have been while I was going to work. It is such an honor, a blessing.”

In August 2022, Cunningham graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a concentration in child psychology. 

“I'm a non-traditional student. It took me 10 years to get my bachelor's degree, but I did it,” she said. “I had help from scholarships, and I am going to have help to get my master's from scholarships. I don't believe Kent State will ever not help you get your education.” 

Cunningham is currently pursuing a master’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in victimology at Kent State. With her master’s degree, Cunningham hopes to help children who have been traumatized and be a support system to them.  

“I'm so proud that I have the opportunity to come to this school because it's such a great school. The teachers and staff genuinely want to see you succeed,” Cunningham said. 

Learn more about the Kent State University Office of Scholarship and Financial Aid.

POSTED: Monday, July 24, 2023 01:12 PM
Updated: Wednesday, August 30, 2023 04:30 PM
Tanner Poe, Flash Communications