Akeili Hawkins

Akeili Hawkins
Major/Job Title:
Elementary Education, BA
University Park, Illinois
Class Year:

Akeili Hawkins

Why did you choose to pursue this degree at UNI? 
I chose UNI because it was the perfect fit for me. Our education department is unmatched when it comes to what we are offered as students compared to other schools. I will leave UNI feeling completely ready to pursue my career because of how prepared I am. Aside from the great coursework and field experiences, I chose UNI to grow my flexibility and independence. I knew that it would be a big adjustment for me to move away and I wanted to broaden my life experiences. UNI did just that for me. I was able to learn a different kind of diversity. 

What kind of path did you take to achieve your degree? 
I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I remember playing school with my younger cousins and always turning the living room into a classroom. Although the age group of kiddos I wanted to teach changed along the way, my passion for educating and nurturing our future leaders never changed. 

What does completing your degree mean to you? 
Completing this degree is a lifelong dream of mine. It brings me so much joy to say that I accomplished this degree through all the hardships and bumps in the road. This is one thing that I am truly proud of and will have as proof for my daughter that you can accomplish anything, despite of everything. 

What challenges did you face as you worked toward this degree? How did you overcome them?
The first major challenge I faced was leaving everything and everyone I knew in Illinois. My family is really close so it was hard to leave them and my hometown. It was also hard to adjust to the culture shock of being in small town Iowa, coming from such a diverse and urban community. My most recent challenge was definitely becoming a mom. Figuring out life as a first time mom during a pandemic and continuing to pursue my degree was not an easy task at all. Especially being in a completely different state than my parents. My faith and support system is what kept me going. My family did anything they could to help me in every aspect. I also had some professors who truly helped me get through some of the hardest situations. 

How did UNI help you achieve your goals? 
The overwhelming support from faculty helped me tremendously. Even when I felt like I couldn’t, there was always someone telling me I can and I will. When I felt my lowest, I had professors and advisors telling me how proud they were that I was still going. Without those people who were in my corner at any point during my time at UNI, I wouldn’t be achieving this goal. 

What’s your best memory of your time at UNI? 
I have a lot of great memories from my time at UNI. My best memory is probably my first day of classes. I remember feeling so nervous but so excited all at once. I couldn’t believe that I was here at UNI, starting my college journey to fulfill my dreams. The joy of going to my first classes and choosing my unassigned, assigned seats, or eating my first dinner with my new friends at the dining hall. That first week was the best and I will cherish those feelings forever. 

What advice would you give to students considering UNI? 
The first piece of advice I would give would be to step out of your comfort zone. I was very nervous to start at UNI at first, but I soon realized that I was exactly where I needed to be. The second piece of advice I would give is to always ask. There were many times that I was unaware of the many great resources UNI had to offer. There’s ALWAYS someone there to help you with anything. Even if it seems impossible!

What are your next steps? 
My plan is to become an elementary school teacher. I have not fully committed to a certain area yet. Eventually I would like to further my education in the administration field and become an elementary school principal.