In 2021, Stayneshia Anderson was working as a cashier, frustrated and annoyed that nothing seemed to be going her way emotionally, mentally or financially. She grew up in foster care and struggled to build a connection once she was adopted. Her struggles at home led to struggles at school as well. At just 16 she was kicked out of her home and had to make a life for herself.
“I wanted to run the streets. I wanted to do bad things,” she said. “I felt like I couldn’t get it at home, so I needed to go out and be on my own. That was the only thing I knew was being on the streets and hustling and doing what I needed to do.”
When her oldest daughter was born, Stayneshia took the opportunity to slow down.
“She showed me there was more to life than what I was doing,” Stayneshia said. “She taught me that there was unconditional love between a mother and a daughter that was unbreakable. It was something I couldn’t experience on my own, but I could experience it with my own daughters and give them the love and attention that I never received. I gave it to them.”
It was because of that love that Stayneshia decided to make another great change. She had been jumping from job to job for too long. Now she was determined to go to college. Stayneshia moved to Atlanta and her girlfriend, a United Education Institute graduate, encouraged her to look into the school. She decided to enroll in the Business Office Administration program at the UEI Morrow campus to build a future that her two daughters could be proud of.
‘I SAW HER LIFE CHANGE’
Starting school as a single mother to two girls in a new town was not easy, but Stayneshia was determined.
“The first couple of weeks I was excited, and I was nervous,” she said. “I was nervous because I didn’t think I was a good student. When we got to breaking it down and how to work in Microsoft, I thought I haven’t done any of this since I was in high school. I didn’t think I would be able to make it through this. It was going to be harder than it was back then. It wasn’t really that hard, it was just mostly me being scared. I had to conquer my fear and walk by faith and not by sight. That’s what I had to do. I just had to trust the process.”
The process of getting schoolwork done turned out to be manageable, but life’s challenges were a different story. When she made her move to Atlanta, Stayneshia’s apartment was not ready, forcing her to sleep in her car with her children and her girlfriend. Throughout the program she had to overcome a slew of personal issues.
“I had to go through two to three months of school sleeping in my car, sleeping in hotel rooms because they were taking forever to fix up my apartment,” Stayneshia said. “There were days I couldn’t shower or brush my teeth until I got to school to put myself together. In the process, I was dealing with things with my daughter. I had to be there for my child but couldn’t give up on my schooling. The biggest thing was I lost my grandfather. Instead of taking time off from school to focus on my family and deal with the grief, I kept coming to school, I kept calling my teacher. I didn’t want to fall behind. It kept my mind off of things.”
“She had a lot of challenges her whole life but the one thing she did is her work,” said Sonja Griffin, Stayneshia’s instructor. “She went through a lot being homeless and dealing with her children’s father, but she stayed focused and she was determined to finish. She is a very driven young lady, she just has to learn to change her attitude that’s ready to fight at a moment’s notice. I saw her life change.”
THE STRENGTH AND COURAGE TO KEEP GOING
Ms. Griffin said over time she watched Stayneshia turn her anger and frustration into something positive.
“I had to tell her some people won’t care for you, that’s just life,” she said. “She had a hang-up. She wanted everyone to like her. I said lots of people won’t like you, but life is just like that. She kept striving for more. I had to tell her to let people talk. You have to let go sometimes. Focus on your kids and continue to make that money.”
Stayneshia was so determined, she even became an ambassador on campus, tutoring other students and helping them to keep going through the program.
“I wanted to push through what I was going through to let others see everybody is going through something,” she said. “Nobody is better than anyone else. No matter what you are going through, the highs, the lows, the tribulations, as long as you have the right determination and mindset you can conquer anything you put your mind to.”
Stayneshia was able to graduate from her business program with a perfect 4.0 GPA and was hired full-time by her externship site. After just a few months she was even promoted to Assistant Manager.
“I have two girls that look up to me and watch my every move and everything I do,” she said. “I could not let them down… I didn’t want them to struggle like I did. I want them to have a better life and be a better person than I was. I owe it to my daughters for the motivation and the strength to keep going. I also owe it to the staff at UEI Morrow because without them and my daughters I would have given up a long time ago. A lot of people have seen a lot in me. They’ve seen my abilities and talents and I’m always second-guessing myself. That school taught me to stop second-guessing myself and give it my all and that’s what I’ve been doing. Without them, I wouldn’t have found the strength or the courage to keep going.”