Jemina Willis

2013 Defining Bravery


Jemina Willis defines bravery.

The University of Michigan-Dearborn senior has overcome a series of obstacles to get where she is today.

Not to mention, Jemina arrived and has succeeded at UM-Dearborn as a nontraditional student. Her drive and determination has allowed her to pursue her passion for education.

“Although I've been faced with various challenges during my time at University of Michigan-Dearborn, I've continued to strive toward excellence,” said Jemina, who is studying behavioral science. “I am not a quitter and it is my hope that my successes will aid in providing others with the inspiration needed to further one's education and to assure them that goal is attainable with perseverance and a good support system.”

Jemina’s perseverance helped her earn a spot on this year’s list of “Difference Makers.”

Jemina’s life experiences have inspired her to pursue a career in social work. She hopes to provide counseling services to troubled youth and their families, and her career goal is to open a home for young women that would offer opportunities of empowerment through lessons in independent living, with rewards of opportunities to travel.

Student Outreach and Academic Resources (SOAR) Director Ellen Judge-Gonzalez has worked closely with Jemina since she enrolled at UM-Dearborn and has recognized her progress in recent years.

“She progresses forward with her studies and clearly-defined plans for her future, despite experiencing many challenges,” Judge-Gonzalez said.

Some of those challenges include a large family to care for, an unreliable car the family shares, two children with chronic health problems, an ailing spouse and little income. Jemina often has to take two buses to get to UM-Dearborn and just as often relies on public transportation to commute to and from the Detroit Medical Center to be with frequently hospitalized family members.

“Considering all of this, it is remarkable that she manages to stay in school, and she does so with an upbeat attitude and a smile,” Judge-Gonzalez said. “Jemina is a ‘glass half full’ person who loves learning, who considers UM-Dearborn an extension of her family and who freely gives of her time and energy to help other students succeed.”