Brenau Scholar Jihae Stanfield

‘Nothing can take me down’

Brenau Scholar Jihae Stanfield from Lawrenceville, Georgia, attended Berkmar High – a school that posted a 58 percent graduation rate in 2014. “I am one of those kids who were on free and reduced lunch,” the 18-year-old says reflectively, without self-pity. “I wouldn’t say I grew up in poverty, but I certainly wasn’t as privileged as some.” That experience motivated her to try to beat the odds, graduate, go to college and pursue an early childhood education career so that through teaching she can encourage others from the same kind of circumstances as her.

“I actually want to go back to my high school and teach there,” she says. “I want to be there and be a part of it to make sure it goes uphill, because a lot of who I am comes from there.”

Stanfield has been a little busy in the first half of her freshman year with juggling the extracurricular task of taking care of her infant son, Sebastian, who was a month old at the beginning of spring term. Still, she plans to get busier by joining a sorority, doing more work with the university’s campus scouts program and getting involved in the dance program. In high school she made a super-strong leap in a single bound from an introductory dance class right into the school’s advanced dance company. She has a special place in her heart for young children who have experienced abuse – something else she knows from experience – maltreatment from a relative that she did not reveal even to her parents until recently. “I was always holding it in,” she says, “but being able to forgive [now] has made me more confident in who I am. I got through that. Nothing can take me down.”

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