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Saturday, September 23, 2023

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Kennedy Howell Kennedy Howell

The Floor is Hers: A Story of Perseverance

SDSU student Kennedy Howell perseveres to enroll at SDSU in her chosen health care field.
By Aaron Burgin

“Since I have joined these communities, I am happy to say that I have made meaningful relationships with the people I have met.”

Kennedy Howell’s dreams of becoming an Aztec were almost dashed during her senior year of high school.

The daughter of two San Diego State University alumni learned in March 2020 that she was not accepted into the university. 

Howell pressed forward, not giving up her pursuit of being an SDSU student. Following a change of heart, she switched her major from nursing to kinesiology and successfully appealed her denial. And in the fall, she moved onto the newly created Black Excellence Floor in South Campus Plaza South Tower as a Henrietta Goodwin Scholar

While universities nationwide reported a 4.4% decrease in undergraduate enrollment during the fall 2020 semester — with many students deferring college as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic — SDSU reported its highest total enrollment in 12 years. Nearly 35,600 students total enrolled at the San Diego and Imperial Valley campuses.

“SDSU's enrollment growth is a reflection of the hard work of our faculty and staff to engage and support our students during this challenging time, as well as the grit and resilience of the students themselves,” said Stefan Hyman, associate vice president for enrollment management. “It also demonstrates the high value of an SDSU degree.”

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Resilience is a word that those who know Howell say describes her appropriately. 

“Kennedy is a problem-solver,” said Bonnie Reddick, director of the Black Resource Center and faculty adviser for the Black Excellence Floor. “Even before Kennedy became a Henrietta Goodwin Scholar, she embodied our affirmation: ‘We persist, we persevere, we do not give up, quitting is not an option.’”

While she had other university options, SDSU was her first and last choice: Howell’s parents met on campus when her father tutored her mother. 

“My love for the school developed once I realized how successful my parents were once they graduated college,” Howell said. “My parents always stressed to me the importance of going to college and earning a degree.”

So she appealed for entry into another health care program: kinesiology pre-physical therapy.

Ultimately, she said, it was a career in health care that mattered most. 

“I believe that health care is a basic human right,” Howell said. “Unfortunately, black women experience disparities and are often neglected when seeking medical care. I believe that there needs to be more representation in the medical field to fill that void. As a black woman myself, this motivates me to be a part of the health care system.”

After graduating, Howell plans to continue studying to become a physician assistant.

By the time she was accepted into SDSU, Howell said she knew the school year might be different. COVID-19 had relegated her to virtual classes during at Cerritos High School south of Los Angeles, with prom and grad night canceled. 

But Howell wanted on-campus housing and chose to live on the suite-style Black Excellence Floor, which was allowed to open this fall following health guidelines. 

“Although it is difficult to physically meet new people, I believe that it is still beneficial to get involved in programs that are offered by the school,” Howell said. “I joined these two communities in hopes of meeting new people similar to me. Since I have joined these communities, I am happy to say that I have made meaningful relationships with the people I have met.”

While the experience was atypical — the only activity the students could do in COVID-19 safe groups was study — Howell said  she has enjoyed her first year. 

“Considering that we are in a pandemic, living on campus has been a good experience for me,” Howell said. “I was able to meet new people, make new friends, learn my way around campus and explore the city of San Diego.

Reddick spoke glowingly of the community the students in the Black Excellence Floor were able to create. 

“My freshman students, particularly those who reside on the Black Excellence Floor, inspire me because of their tenacity and resilience,” Reddick said. “They built a community with very little assistance from me. They have been unable to have a normal’ college experience, but they are looking forward to the nation getting COVID-19 under control and all of us returning to campus soon.”

Howell said she has no regrets forging ahead with her freshman year and said she hopes prospective students follow in her footsteps with better times ahead. 

“Whether you choose to attend SDSU or not, I believe that it is important that you start your college journey and continue your education. Obtaining a college degree will help prepare you for life,” Howell said. “College is not only a place to further your education but also a place for you to meet new people and make connections.”