Mikeiya Bennett first realized she wanted to start a nonprofit in high school while on a tour of historically Black colleges and universities. On the tour, Bennett met a young woman her age who was overwhelmed by the stress of being away from home; seeing her struggle ignited an interest to help others who are dealing with that same issue.
“I just wanted to be able to, you know, help that young woman out that I kind of interacted with in the bathroom and make experiences that are a little more personal and that make traveling and taking that first big leap of faith a lot easier,” said Bennett, a senior political science major.
After graduation, Bennett will be taking the first steps toward accomplishing her goal of starting a nonprofit. Starting June 1, Bennett will be working at the South East Asia Prayer Center, a nonprofit organization that provides humanitarian services, as a missions resident.
Throughout her two-year residency program, Bennett will be able to organize and participate in mission trips and an annual conference. Bennett is already familiar with SEAPC, which is based in her hometown of Pittsburgh, after interning there last summer. She also received a job offer in March, which she was ecstatic to accept.
When searching for a job, Bennett experienced challenges finding a position as a new graduate with limited professional experiences, she said.
“I literally was jumping up and down because the after-college job process, the biggest hurdle I ran into was a lot of people were saying you need to have more experience,” Bennett said.
Through her work at SEAPC she hopes to gain knowledge of how nonprofits function so that she is better equipped to start her own, she said.
Bennett is graduating from Temple after only three years, a plan she has been working on with her academic advisor, Patrice Hicks, since her first semester.
When Hicks first heard of Bennett’s plans to graduate early, she was surprised because most students don’t think about graduation during their first semester, but Bennett was resolute in her decision, Hicks said.
“You don’t encounter a lot of freshmen who are like, ‘I want to graduate a year early,’ but I realized that she was serious, I was shocked, and I said to her, ‘Are you sure, that’s going to require some heavy credit loads?’ and she was like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to do it,’” Hicks said.
While at Temple, Bennett worked as a resident assistant for two years and one year as an executive assistant in the office of the president, which helped her prepare for her career because of the skills the jobs taught her.
“Being an RA really forces you to get better at your soft skills,” Bennett said. “Anyone can teach you hard skills, like reading, writing, things of that nature, but soft skills are things that you really only can adopt from experience, so I’ve been learning how to really make interpersonal connections, you know, how to really empathize with people, and I really feel like that’s gonna do me well in my career field.”
Her family has been an integral part of her journey because of the support they have shown her, Bennett said.
“I literally kept a picture of my family, no matter where I was, what dorm, I always kept a picture of my family at my desk, just to remind me like who I was doing it for and how I was able to get here,” Bennett said.
Markisha Kennedy, Bennett’s mother, recognizes Bennett’s caring nature and tendency to help others, which makes her more confident in the future of the nation.
“I think that Mikeiya is a reflection of all that is good in this world, and I think she is why I don’t worry about our future as a country, because I know that you know, she and her friends and fellow students go out of their way to do what’s right,” Kennedy said.
Bennett looks forward to meeting new people and practicing the skills she has learned while working to get her degree.
“I tell my freshmen girls that I mentor here in Johnson and Hardwick, I always let them know, you’re meant to get your degree so you can actually go and succeed in your profession, so what I’m really excited is now I get to actually implement everything I learned in college with my political science degree,” Bennett said.