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UC grad aims to make world better place

Transfer student is motivated by her past to volunteer and make a change in her community

JeMiah Cannon knows that real change can start right in her hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio.

The recent University of Cincinnati graduate is headed back to campus in the fall for a master’s of anthropology with a concentration in archaeology. Cannon says she hopes to use her degree to one day start her own nonprofit organization to help inner-city kids growing up in disadvantaged situations. Even more, she’d like to open a school with an African-centered curriculum to help students better understand African American history.

JeMiah Cannon smiles at the camera wearing a medal and stole for her graduation.

JeMiah Cannon graduates with honors from UC's College of Arts and Sciences.

Although Cannon graduated from high school fourth in her class and with honors, college was not the obvious next step. College got “put on the back burner” as she raised her younger sister from the age of 16.

“I was more focused on raising her and making sure she didn’t have to go through the same things I went through,” Cannon says. “I had to do what I had to do.”

As her sibling got older, Cannon realized that she wanted to see her sister attend college. “I started thinking, maybe it’s time for me to go back to college and show rather than just tell her,” she said.

Cannon began her higher education at a Cincinnati technical and community college where she earned a scholarship to transfer to UC in 2017. She describes the transfer process as being very easy.

“Everything seemed to fall in place the right way,” she said.

As an undergrad student at UC, Cannon double-majored in anthropology and Africana studies. She was a member of the University Honors Program and a McNair Scholar, and she has traveled abroad to Germany and Guatemala.

JeMiah Cannon smiles as she is awarded a scholarship certificate.

Cannon (on right) accepts the Ewaniki Moore-Hawkins Light to the World scholarship award.

“My goal was just to learn about cultures and people and learn more about their heritage and history,” she says. “Once I put in my mind that I’m going to do something, I do it.”

Throughout her entire college career, Cannon has worked full time at Education at Work, a national nonprofit organization that helps college students graduate with less debt and increased professional skills. Working with students to help them reach their goals was inspiring, Cannon says, and also contributed to her decision to attend college.

On top of her double major and full-time work schedule, Cannon spent time volunteering with local food pantries and other nonprofit organizations.

“You remember every time you’re volunteering why you’re going to school, why you want a nonprofit organization, why you refuse to let the things you went through all be in vain,” Cannon says. “If you can help someone else have an easier life then it's all worth it.”

In January 2019, Cannon gave birth to her daughter, Nyza, whom she also hopes to inspire to go to college when she’s older.

If you can help someone else have an easier life then it's all worth it.

UC graduate JeMiah Cannon

“You have to plan ahead, and you have to be organized,” the honors student says of navigating college while raising a child. “The first thing I did was map out a timeline and how that would affect my degree.”

JeMiah Cannon smiles at the camera with her 17-month-old daughter perched on her lap.

Cannon poses with her daughter, Nyza.

Cannon took the spring semester off and enrolled in online classes for the summer, which made transitioning back into classes pretty manageable, she says. “My husband was also a huge help in supporting me, often walking around campus with our daughter while I was in class,” Cannon says.

“It definitely takes a village,” she laughs. “But it was motivational just knowing I have a daughter now.”

The hardest thing she’s had to overcome throughout her college experience, Cannon says, is feeling like she has to prove that she deserves to be there.

“Even though I’m a nontraditional student, even though I’m a minority, even though I work full time, it just feels like you have to prove yourself,” Cannon says. “I’ve come across a lot of support and people who do believe in me and that is what has pushed me forward. I’m constantly breaking out of those barriers.”

Currently, the recent grad is working on a research project in the field of plantation archaeology to help give a voice to people who were enslaved.

“I have big dreams,” Cannon says, “so I just use all of that as fuel to keep pushing forward.”

Featured Image at top: JeMiah Cannon smiles at the camera. All photos provided.

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