SaNiyah Speaks

Faith SandlerStudent Stories, Words of Faith

Editor’s Note: These are actually not my words. These are the words of a rising college sophomore delivered to an audience of soon to be first-year college students this week. They are powerful words, delivered from a place of experience and a person of wisdom beyond her years. I could not improve upon them, so I share them with you “as is” and with the permission of the writer. Reading them reinforces for me that we choose our students wisely and they do well with the trust we’ve placed in them. – Faith


Remarks Delivered at New Era Scholarship Ceremony, July 25, 2023
By SaNiyah Stephens

“College is like losing your mom in the grocery store for four years.”


Hello. My name is Saniyah Stephens and I am honored to speak to you today. I will be a sophomore at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee this fall.

I received financial assistance from The Scholarship Foundation my freshman year and I am blessed to receive assistance for this upcoming school year. I am a nursing major and am looking forward to receiving my BSN in 2026. I would not be able to fund my college education without the Foundation’s support, so again I am honored to speak with you for a few minutes.

I have a few things I’d like to share with you in hopes that I can help you as you begin your college journey….

You are now transitioning into a young adult and will be on your own. This is the time when you will become an advocate for yourself and be able to speak up if something isn’t right and if you have a problem that needs to be solved. You will find that the business offices and professors will not talk to your parents on your behalf like they did when you were in high school. So it is up to you to communicate what your needs are.

I also recommend that you become open to the idea of meeting new people and increasing your circle. Do not focus on keeping all of your friends from high school because everyone isn’t meant to go on this journey with you.

You will have to find a way to balance your academics, work, work study, and your social life. You must learn to prioritize all of your activities with your schoolwork being your top priority. Learning to balance these things will make the difference between succeeding and failing.

Cynthia Stephens looks on as her daughter speaks to new students.

There are so many resources available for you to use on campus. So make sure that you take advantage of all of them. Not all resources will jump out at you. Most will require you to do a little digging. You will find that your professors can be a great resource, however it is up to you to reach out to them and ask for help because they typically do not just offer their help. Professors like to know who is serious about their education and you reaching out to them for help outside of class shows them that you are serious. Another resource can be your peers and other students. Study groups or one-on-one sessions with students who are more advanced than you can help also. One of the best resources that I made sure to take advantage of was the on-campus library. I found this to be very peaceful plus a great distraction from the activities on campus.

It is important to create a good support system to help when you are having a meltdown: because you are having trouble with one of your professors; you are short money for toiletries or lunch for the rest of the week; or if you just need someone to remind you of why you are there. Your support systems may consist of family and friends or even your church. At the end of the day, you need a safe place to go when you just need someone to talk to about any and everything.

You will be faced with some tough situations, some of which you have never had to deal with before. So it is important that you make your mental health a top priority. Make sure you know where to find the resources to help support this effort.

In Conclusion and Finally

I advise you to not try to solve every problem you have on your own. Know that it is okay to admit that you do not know everything and that it is okay to ask for help. You never want to be the smartest person in the room or the smartest person in your circle because how can you learn anything new if you are the person with all the answers? Your college experience is all about creating new experiences, meeting new people, and learning from your mistakes.

Thank you for your time!