Student graduates despite setbacks of homelessness, academic probation

Silk Daniels, senior hospitality major, poses next to the Lumberjack Express for her senior photos.

 

 After being on academic probation twice, being homeless for two years and living in her car, one student will graduate this May.

Silk Daniels, a hospitality management major with a focus on travel and tourism, is graduating at the end of this semester after serving as a department ambassador with a job lined up with Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Daniels’ journey, however, was not an easy one.

Before reaching this place in her academic career, Daniels posted in a Tweet that she had been on academic probation twice and homeless for two years, living in her car and house hopping between friends.

“I bought a black Cobalt, and I paid it off, which was good because I got in a situation where I couldn’t afford rent anymore,” Daniels said. “I mean, I was a sophomore in college at this time, so I just wanted to have a taste of the apartment life, but I wasn’t necessarily ready for it. Not to mention eBills were also kicking my butt, so I just couldn’t afford it. But I know myself, if I was to give up and go home, I probably wouldn’t come back. Not saying I’m a quitter, but I just know myself, and so I had to stay in school.”

Daniels initially started school as a pre-med psychology major at Mary Baldwin University in Virginia, where she was put on academic probation for the first time, before transferring to SFA in 2015 with a GPA of 1.7.

“I got here and changed my major to hospitality, but then I didn’t pass that semester,” Daniels said. “I got up, I was at a 1.7 at first, but then I ended at a 1.8 or something like that. 1.8 or 1.9, so I stayed on academic probation. After you miss that first academic probation, you’re not supposed to really come back to the school. I wrote an appeal begging them, like ‘if you guys really look at it, I went up a point. I’m not at a 2.0 yet, but can you just have hope in me, please?’ and they gave me another chance. SFA gave me another chance by the grace of God.”

Despite these hardships, Daniels claims her journey made her a better person, helping her understand the importance of struggle.

“I got even more focused,” Daniels said. “After the homelessness, I became more humble. I became more modest, more understanding of people’s trials. More understanding that people go through things because I was a little

shallow. I’m not going to lie. Prior to everything I went through I was a little shallow, and I needed that to happen to me to grow up a little bit.”

Daniels also thanks faculty for aiding in her success. One faculty member in particular is Patty Ashworth, who inspired Daniels through prayer and devotionals.

“She didn’t [confide in me] right away, but I could tell that she was kind of struggling because she was having difficulties with things,” Ashworth said. “She really didn’t start confiding in me until, it was like May of 2017, she had come, and she was really struggling, but you could tell that there was a desire there. I love to help people, and so any student that comes and needs assistance, first of all, that’s my job, but that’s what I feel I’m supposed to do. I could tell she needed just some help.”

For students experiencing struggles, Daniel’s offers one piece of advice: don’t give up, no matter your struggle. Dr. Hollie Smith, assistant dean of student affairs, also reminds students that there are options for help.

“Depending on the situation, SFA may be able to offer temporary housing and meal plans for students in a crisis situation,” Smith said.

Meredith Janning has worked on The Pine Log since her second semester at Stephen F. Austin. During her time at The Pine Log, Meredith has held the positions of staff writer and news editor.

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