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Class of 2020 Success Stories: Oshionna Natsheia Lee-Hicks overcomes adversities to achieve her goal

Social work major credits BGSU mentors, trip to Fiji and Thompsons Working Family Scholarship

By Bob Cunningham ’18

Bowling Green State University initially caught the attention of Oshionna Natsheia Lee-Hicks based on the amount of scholarship funding she was offered, but it was the opportunity to attend the BGSU Ultimate Overnight Trip that sealed the deal.

“It was presentations from programs like SMART and the Office of Multicultural Affairs that increased my interest in attending BGSU,” said Lee-Hicks, who attended Saint Martin de Porres High School in Cleveland. “It seems like yesterday I was a freshman, moving into my dorm during BGSU Opening Weekend, but here I am an official BGSU Fall 2020 graduate.”

As Lee-Hicks concluded her final days as an undergraduate at the University, she pondered how she made it to the finish line. She struggled with social anxiety, past trauma and a lack of confidence. A quote by Malcom X sums up her experience: “There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.”

Lee-Hicks, a Thompson Scholar who earned a Bachelor of science in social work (BSW) from the College of Health and Human Services, thanked her mentors for helping along the way.

“During my freshman year, it was meeting with my SMART mentor, DeMari Brown ’19. Then, it was it was one-on-one meetings with Ayanna Byers, my Graduate SMART Coordinator,” she said. “Throughout my college journey, it has been meetings with Mary Kay Inkrott Hiser, director of the Thompson Scholarship Programs and my scholarship advisor. It was joining SMART and being involved in the Bowling Green Alternative Break Program. It was developing a few lifelong friendships with some fellow Falcons. All of these people and programs played a role as I completed my degree at BGSU.”

During her time at the University, the Thompson Family Scholarship program, provided by the generosity of Robert '55, '06 (Hon.) and Ellen Bowen '54, '06 (Hon.) Thompson, has been so much more than a scholarship. It provided her with support and encouragement every step of the way.

“Mary Kay always challenged me to keep striving for success and was willing to go the extra mile to make sure I was practicing self-care,” Lee-Hicks said. “I found myself becoming extremely anxious and discouraged at times but continued reaching for my goals because I know there’s a better future ahead of me and my purpose is to serve others. By the grace of God, I meet some amazing mentors and friends while completing my BSW. Many of these people were there for me through every obstacle I faced while completing my BSW, from listening to my brother fight for his life over the phone in my dorm room to losing my initial internship at Lucas County Correctional Treatment Facility while volunteering in the Fiji Islands.”

Hiser said it was a privilege to get to know and work with Lee-Hicks as one of BGSU’s Thompson Family Scholars.

“As a first-generation student from Cleveland, Oshionna didn’t know how she was going to afford college until she learned about the Thompson Scholarship,” Hiser said. “Life has not been easy, and she’s practically worked full-time through much of her college career. I am so proud of her perseverance and pushing through challenges when she’s wanted to give up. She has served as one of our Thompson Summer Link Student Leaders, a SMART mentor, completed a service trip in Fiji, served as a site leader for MLK Day of Service and Alternative Break. She completed numerous other service hours on top of other involvement across campus.”

Lee-Hicks said her favorite service opportunity was when she volunteered abroad at the Fiji Islands.

“It was an amazing experience from staying with a Fijian family and learning the Fijian culture to touring the islands,” she said. “During the trip, we constructed rainwater catchment tanks, restored school facilities, equipment and buildings and taught English and math at the local schools. The entire experience with Volunteer Eco Students Abroad was life-changing, and I’m looking forward to going back to Fiji Islands to serve and reconnect with my Fijian family.”

Helping communities closer to home also remains very important to Lee-Hicks.

“When you start from concrete and have been searching for water to grow your seed, you know what it feels like to be in need,” she said. “Through every trial and tribulation, I learned that everything has to pass and the struggle doesn’t last. During my times of uncertainties and when faced with adversities, I found peace and comfort in serving others and attending service-learning trips.

“Serving others is so much more than paying it forward, it’s an opportunity to grow and learn more about myself. During my journeys of volunteering, I’ve been blessed to hear the life story of many people from all walks of life. The fact that I am able to encourage them to keep going, reminds me that our past mistakes do not define our future, but rather how we plan on moving forward from those mistakes. Oftentimes, it is moments like these that encouraged me to keep pushing because I understand that God has a plan for me too.

“In our personal and professional lives, we are constantly experiencing one adversity after the other, many out of our control. During the past four years, I’ve learned that the most important thing is how we choose to react, adapt, breathe and react.”

Media Contact | Michael Bratton | mbratto@bgsu.edu | 419-372-6349

Updated: 12/13/2023 02:45PM