By Kendra Hall
It might sound a little cliché to say that one act of kindness can change a life. But for me, this statement could not be truer. I have overcome many hardships, and my path toward higher education was not simple or straightforward. For me, the topics of sexual violence and the daily realities of poverty are much more than an academic inquiry. They are experiences that have shaped who I am.
It is not easy to share some of the painful elements of my story, however, I know it is important to do so. I grew up extremely poor –– the eldest of three daughters raised by a single mother. At age 19, I became pregnant and dropped out of school to get married; by age 22, I was a single parent with two daughters. I am a survivor of sexual assault, which occurred in both my teens and early twenties. My mid-to-late twenties were very difficult years. I worked low-wage jobs, struggling to raise and care for my daughters, while grappling with the demoralizing psychological and tangible effects of living in poverty. At one point, I lost hope of ever having a better life.
One day, quite unexpectedly, I met a kind soul who forever changed the direction of my life. I was astounded that a stranger could care about me and want to help me — with no expectation of anything in return. This experience reignited my hope for, and belief in the possibility of, a better life. It quickly set in motion a chain of positive events. That fall, I started attending night classes at a community college. Three years later, I graduated with an associate degree and was accepted into UC Davis.
The UC Blue and Gold plan, in combination with merit and need-based scholarships, made it possible for me to continue my education and realize my dream of achieving a bachelor’s degree. Scholarships not only covered the cost of my tuition, but also critical expenses like housing and utilities. Without this support, it would have been impossible to attend UC Davis.
In June of 2019, at age 34, I will receive my bachelor’s degree in evolutionary anthropology, with academic honors. Through the generosity of donors who make supplemental educational scholarships possible, I am now positioned to lift my family out of poverty. I am so proud and truly grateful to be where I am today. It is my aim to dedicate my future career to working for the empowerment of women facing poverty and violence. I look forward to one day giving back to UC Davis, because without philanthropy my undergraduate degree would not have been possible.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the individuals who donate to philanthropy. Your generosity has empowered me with the ability to create a fundamentally brighter future for my daughters. Large or small, your donations make a profound difference. It only takes one person to change a life forever.