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Alumni of the Month: Nakena James

Nakena at her Texarkana College Candlelighting Ceremony

Strength – the common theme through TC alum Nakena James’ life. As a single mother of five children, she faced numerous challenges and hardships, but through hard work and a desire to help other people, she overcame her circumstances and created a better life for herself and her children.

“I grew up in the low-income projects of Pittsburg, TX, and became a teenage mother at the age of 17. I was unable to complete high school and never even considered college being an option for me.” Nakena knew she needed a job to be able to provide for her family and took courses to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and phlebotomist.

“During my time working at a clinic, my patients encouraged me to go to college. They told me I was smart enough to do it, and believed in me even when I couldn’t believe in myself.”

With their belief in her capabilities echoing in her mind, Nakena mustered the courage to pursue a college education. However, the path was not an easy one. It took three long years to gain admission, as Nakena faced setbacks, including failing an entrance exam.  She persevered, retaking the exam and ultimately earning her place at Texarkana College.

Nakena in her Texarkana College Cap and Gown

“I refused to give up on my dreams. Once I was accepted at TC, my entire life changed for the better.” Nakena would drive from Pittsburg, TX to Texarkana College daily in a car with no air-conditioning. She made friends with other TC nursing students who lived in Mount Vernon, and they began to carpool. Together, they pushed through the hardships, forming a bond bound by a shared determination for a better future.

Throughout her time at Texarkana College, Nakena encountered numerous instructors who mentored and uplifted her. “My instructors at TC knew I was a single mom and went out of their way to help and support me. Mrs. Arnold even nominated me to get a gift card for Christmas one year. She was the only reason my kids had something to wake up to that Christmas morning.”

Mrs. Randles and Mrs. Arnold were a few of the remarkable individuals who recognized Nakena’s strength and resilience. “It was so important for me to see Black women who looked like me in positions like theirs. Growing up, I never got to see that. After sacrificing so much to go to school and at times wanting to give up, the instructors left me with the impression that I can do anything and giving up wasn’t an option.”

Nakena graduated in 2012 with her Vocational Nursing Certificate and then in 2016 with her associate degree in nursing. She knew she wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and began to work for Hospice. In 2020 she decided to step out of her comfort zone, pursuing her dreams of owning her own uniform scrubs shop.

“I am the proud owner of iSom Scrubs in Pittsburg, TX. Additionally, I am a weekend supervisor at a nursing facility and am planning to open a geriatric group home.” Nakena’s faith in God’s plan for her life has continued to open doors and provide amazing opportunities.

Nakena’s inspiration comes from the Lord and from her five incredible children. Lakesia, Brooklyn, Trinity, Michael, and Derricka fueled her drive to keep pushing forward and served as a constant reminder that she could accomplish anything she set her mind to.

Nakena and her children

“You can do anything that you set your mind to. If you’re wavering – just do it. If you don’t believe in yourself – just do it. If you don’t have support – just do it. If you don’t have the resources – just do it. JUST START! God will equip you with the resources you need along the way.”

In reflecting upon her journey, Nakena truly believes that Texarkana College transformed her life through education. Her experiences taught her invaluable lessons about perseverance, trust in herself, and reliance on a higher power. Nakena’s story is one of triumph over adversity, and the belief that, with faith, one can conquer any challenge that comes their way.

Nakena has awarded over $1,000 to healthcare students in the past 2 years

Related to TC Foundation

Tagged with Alumni of the Month, Nursing