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Shakana Kirksey – affectionately known around the Triton College campus as Keke – stays on the go, as a full-time student, military veteran and single mother. A member of almost every club and organization available on campus, the 30-year-old prefers to stay busy with positive activities after going through a stint of unforeseen and unfortunate challenges in her life.

On active duty until the birth of her daughter in 2003, Kirksey went into the reserves in 2004 and experienced difficulty finding and holding down a job, as many were temporary. On three separate occasions, Kirksey went for several months without. She was hit hardest from spring through fall 2010, when she found herself without a job, money and a home, and had little option but to live in her car with her 8-year-old daughter Shyan. She had not received the assistance to which she was entitled after serving nearly 10 years of service in the military, and her grandmother, her only real family in the Maywood area, lived in senior housing which would not accept neither Kirksey or her daughter. These trials and tribulations only pushed Kirksey harder to establish a better future for herself and her child. Through the support of friends who provided Kirksey with a place to stay, she continues her educational pursuit in paralegal studies at Triton, which she begun in spring 2010.

“I always wanted to go to law school. So I told myself, it was time to buckle down, and Triton became an option,” she said. “Once I got my foot in the door, I couldn’t imagine not coming here.”

Kirksey says the Triton community inspires her to achieve her dreams, especially the Triton College Student Association’s Commit to Complete program. “I’m one of those living examples about how things can attempt to stop you from your education. But you can’t let them stop you. You have to keep moving forward. ”