A teen mother defies expectations to become a doctoral student and founds a nonprofit organization to combat poverty and discrimination in her community.

Ronessa Strickland Roberts

As a teen mother, the odds were stacked against Ronessa Strickland-Roberts. According to the statistics, she wasn’t going to graduate high school, let alone attend college.

“I would have been more likely to be impoverished, drug addicted, or have a criminal history,” said Ronessa. “Beating those odds was my first accomplishment.”

Since that time, Ronessa has not only gone on to earn her bachelor’s degree, but she also has received her Master of Public Health (MPH) from Walden in 2010 and is currently enrolled in the PhD in Public Health with a specialization in Epidemiology.

Ronessa’s first experience with public health came when working as a medical assistant at a local nonprofit whose target population was mentally ill, homeless, substance-abusing, HIV-positive men and women. “It was at that job that I knew I wanted to continue working in public health,” said Ronessa. She has continued her education with that in mind, and she has made her career choices around that aspiration.

In January 2011, Ronessa started her own local nonprofit, Inspiration and Change Inc., to help reduce discrimination against minorities and others of low-to-middle incomes in her community. The organization takes a holistic approach to combating poverty and its residual effects. In the near future, Ronessa hopes to expand offerings to include re-entry services and programs that address psychological traumas.

Ronessa is currently pursuing her PhD at Walden so that she can focus on research. She hopes to become a principal investigator in her areas of interest, and she believes that the more knowledge she gains, the better service she can provide to her community.

Man researching online education on laptop

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