ABOVE: Jevona “Jae” Manning
The life that Jevona “Jae” Manning had grown accustomed to for 25 years suddenly unraveled in 2017 with some crushing news from her husband.
“He woke up one morning and decided that he didn’t want to be married anymore,” said Manning, 51, a mother of two. “I had been a housewife and mom and he was the sole breadwinner. I had no idea how I was going to start life all over. I didn’t know where I was going to go or how I was going to get there. I was lost.”
The following year, Manning gathered her courage to enroll in classes at Houston Community College Missouri City campus. She not only got in, but excelled to earn a 3.709 GPA. She graduated this past spring from HCC with an Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Arts and Humanities.
As if the rigor of studying for exams wasn’t difficult enough, Manning has also found time to write a book, “Pain…Fear…Triumph! Jae’s Journey,” to help other women overcome obstacles to reach their highest potential.
HCC Pathways and Case Management advisor Vivian Ellis was the first person to greet Manning when she visited the Missouri City campus in 2018. Manning recalls the encounter as if it were yesterday.
“I was so nervous when I walked up to the front desk that I literally became physically ill,” Manning said. “Ms. Ellis asked, ‘Can I help you?’ I took a deep breath and told her I feel like I’m too old to go to college. She said, ‘No, no, you’re never too old’ and said that I came to the right place.”
Ellis, the HCC advisor, said she saw potential in Manning from the time she first met her.
“She is a courageous young woman who has learned how to live in spite of personal challenges and difficulties,” said Ellis.
Manning became hyper-focused on her studies, while holding down work-study clerical jobs at the HCC Brays Oaks, Gulfton and Stafford campuses. She also found time to spend with her two daughters, now 28 and 31, and her 7-year-old grandson.
While at HCC, Manning remained on the Dean’s List and became a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, National Society of the Collegiate Scholars and National Society of Leadership and Success.
“It feels like a dream come true,” Manning said of graduation. “Some people may think it’s just an associate degree, but for me, that’s a milestone. I’m 51 years old, I’m graduating from college for the first time and it’s exhilarating.”
Manning, who is a certified life coach, said she plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology or sociology at a four-year university.
“I’m a natural nurturer and naturally caring person,” she said. “Now I’ll get to encourage people who are going through some heavy things. I want to help as many women and men to stand. Just because life has thrown at you a bunch of curve balls, it doesn’t have to end there and I’m living proof.”