From working in a call center and at a bank, to serving as a full-time nanny, Renee King’s resume already spans several industries—and now the 31-year-old Jamaican immigrant is focused on adding her dream job in dentistry to the list.

Renee graduated with her associate degree in science from Truman College in the spring of 2021, and, through a guaranteed admission partnership with City Colleges, she was able to transfer to the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) this fall. There, she’s studying molecular, cellular, and organismal biology in preparation for dentistry school.

If you ask her professors, advisors, and peers, there’s no doubt that Renee has what it takes to achieve her dreams. In fact, the near 4.0 GPA student received both the S.M.I.L.E Scholarship from the PepsiCo Foundation, an award designed to help students transition from designated partner community colleges to four-year colleges and universities, as well as the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. With the support of the two awards, her bachelor’s degree will be tuition free.

“It is absolutely a dream come true,” Renee said about receiving the scholarships. “I am now confident my aspirations will become reality and fulfilling my purpose is possible.”

Renee credits her determination for her accomplishments, but her educational journey certainly hasn’t been easy. After moving to Chicago from Jamaica in 2016 and enrolling at Truman when her daughter was seven months old, she made the difficult decision put her studies on hold in order to make financial ends meet. Still, she never lost sight of her goal and re-enrolled at the school a few years later.

Renee says her City Colleges’ advisor, Jodi-Ann Browning-Bent, and Truman Dean of Student Services Mary Ann Soley have been instrumental to her success. Jodi and Renee have bonded over their Jamaican heritage, and both Jodi and Dean Soley have provided Renee with empathy and an open door at every turn—support that she believes is reflective of Truman as a whole.

“It’s an institution that’s not biased, that’s flexible, and that wants you to win,” she said.

Beyond the staff at Truman, Renee has another source of motivation—her now 5-year-old daughter Jadae. Renee wants to be an example of resilience, courage, and strength for her daughter, and she’s motivated by the desire to show her that “women move mountains every day.”

As Renee looks forward to continuing her education and making a future for herself in the field of dentistry, it’s clear that example has been set—both for Jadae and anyone else that hears her story.

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