For SNA member Keshia Williams, an Annual Fund scholarship meant not having to choose between going back to school and providing for her young family.
“I have a family—a husband and two daughters—and this scholarship meant not having to take out as many student loans,” explained Keshia, by phone from Georgia. “When you think long-term you have to ask yourself how hard is it going to be to pay back these loans in three years? Right now the financial component isn’t as much of an issue because I have student loans, but I’m trying to advance my family without creating a major burden down the road.”
Williams currently holds the position of Nutrition Specialist for Haralson County Schools in Georgia; she has been with the district since she was a student, starting when she was just 16 years old.
“I started as a student worker, and then went full-time and in 2010 I started with school nutrition,” said Keshia. “A couple of years later I decided to go back to school; I’m currently attending Kaplan University, majoring in Nutrition Science.”
An SNA member since 2011, Keshia became aware of scholarship opportunities through SNA newsletters. Knowing that a scholarship would ease the long-term financial burden of pursuing her degree, Williams decided to apply. With the support of her husband and two young daughters—Peyton, 7, and Ella Claire, 5–Keshia’s goal is to be the first person in her family to graduate from college.
“I’m doing this for them,” said Keshia. “No one in my family has graduated from college, so it’s a personal goal of mine to be that one and to set that example for my girls.”
Going back to school isn’t easy when you are raising a family and overseeing operations in six schools—not to mention Seamless Summer and Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, plus the move of five schools to CEP—but with financial support from the Annual Fund Keshia knows that her work now is an investment in the future, both personally and professionally.
“I feel like SNA has opened up opportunities for me to get to know people, people who live many states away, but do the same thing that I do,” said Keshia. “Plus vendors, manufacturers, brokers—we meet everyone. I feel like it’s been a great window of opportunity to grow those relationships, to get to know people. The attitude of, ‘Let’s fix this together’, I think that’s been the biggest reward being an SNA member.”
When asked if she had any thoughts for members who are on the fence about applying for a scholarship, or even going back to school, Keshia added one last thought.
“What do you have to lose? I have a lot of friends in school nutrition, and I always make a point to mention that these scholarships are available—and that it’s worth their time and energy to apply. I liked being able to share my passion for school nutrition in the application process, and I was able to share my successes, what I like, my goals. I always said I would be the poster child of someone who loves their job, because I truly do, and that application was just another reminder that I’m doing what I need to be doing—that I’m exactly where I need to be.”