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Grandmother named first UNT Dallas ‘student of the month’

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Dallas South News Wire (UNT Dallas)

A grandmother has been named the inaugural “SPOTlight Student of the Month” at the University of North Texas at Dallas.

Janey McClanahan, UNT Dallas' firt “SPOTlight Student of the Month”

Janet McClanahan graduated from David Carter High School in Oak Cliff in 1976. She got married and had two daughters and now has six grandchildren. She is an administrative assistant at El Centro College by day—she has worked there 19 years—and a UNT Dallas student by night.

“I’m 53 years old. It took me a while to decide to come back to school,” McClanahan said. She had taken classes through the years at El Centro earning an associate’s degree in 2005. A few years ago she realized it wouldn’t be long before she retires from El Centro and after she does she plans to spend most of her time helping make a difference in the lives of others.

She enrolled in college in 2009, she said, because “I needed to learn as much as I can before I start the second half of my life. To help nowadays, you need more than one degree to be in the helping profession.”

Her daughters were surprised when she said she was going to college after all those years. She did not get any financial aid, and she moved out of her house of 15 years and moved in with a brother.

“I went from a physical address of 15 years to a P.O. box when I started school here just so I could pay for it.” Her daughter warned her to be careful “because I was spending all my money to come to school,” she said. Last year she received a $3,000 scholarship from Executive Women International, and every semester God provided the resources she needed to continue in school, she said.

She chose to enroll in UNT Dallas because it was convenient to her brother’s home in DeSoto. “It’s close and they had the program I wanted. Denton wouldn’t have worked with my job being downtown.” She takes evening classes and plans to graduate in December with two degrees—a bachelor’s degree human services management and leadership and a bachelor’s degree in arts and sciences.

In January the Office of Student Life at the city’s first public, four-year university decided to start naming a SPOTlight Student of the Month—named for the spots on the school’s jaguar mascot. The award will recognize students who promote and embody the school’s values of civility, virtue, responsibility and accountability, said Lindsay Knight, student programs coordinator.

McClanahan was nominated to be the first winner because of her work as president of the New Horizons Human Services Management and Leadership student organization.

Student Activities Coordinator John Daniels called McClanahan one of the university’s most committed and responsible student leaders. “Janet has been proactive in her planning, creative in her thinking, cooperative with her leadership team and others, and accountable for her actions.” Lots of student organization presidents lead busy lives, he said, “and Janet is no exception, but she doesn’t let things drop.”

The New Horizons student organization seeks to find needs in the community and help meet those needs. McClanahan said the group seemed like an interesting club and a good fit for her when she first came back to school. “I’ve always been a helper because my brother was born mentally and physically challenged. I started helping with the Special Olympics when I was 12 years old,” she said.

Since she became president, New Horizons has:
·         collected food for Kahn Elementary School, which gives the food to students on Fridays to make sure they have food to eat over weekends
·         honored veterans by hosting a veteran’s reception in November
·         hosted speakers, including her friend Dallas Urban League President Beverly Mitchell-Brooks, who spoke on leadership in September
·         enlisted secret pals to send cards every month to family members and friends of students and staff who are in nursing homes or facilities like the one her brother is in

McClanahan invited former SMU track star Gene Pouncy Sr. to speak on campus Feb. 22 for Black History Month. Pouncy was one of the fastest sprinters in the nation in the early 1970s. New Horizons also sponsored a movie fundraiser Feb. 23. The price of admission was one canned food item, which will be donated to a local food bank.

The Office of Student Life has played a big role in her club’s success, she said. “John Daniels is just on it. I can send him a flyer and the next thing I know he will spruce it up for me, and I tell him I need things advertised, and he’ll get it done. I really enjoy John. He helps a lot.”

In addition to the convenience of campus, McClanahan recognized three professors as what she enjoys most at UNT Dallas. “Connie Lacy is very familiar with the program, and that’s what I like about her. She knows all the ins and outs about human services. But Dr. (Todd) Gomez, he’s an excellent professor, as well as Dr. (Joy) Patton.”

After graduating, she wants to open a non-profit organization to help African-American young men in their late teens and early 20s. “I want to encourage them and give them some guidance,” she explained. “I also want to work with the homeless, if they’ve been homeless from one day to one year.”

A member of Lighthouse Church of God in Christ, McClanahan said her faith drives her to get involved in all of these projects. “That’s what we’re supposed to do. We’re servants. That’s who I am and that’s what I do.”

Categories: Education, Featured, Recent Posts, UNT Dallas
  • Tamekia Chambers

    Mother I am so proud of you. You keep up the good work. Maybe one day I can be just like you.

  • Sherron Williams

    I am very proud of you Mrs.McClanahan. I know you to be a person that has the heart of a servant. And I am encouraged, and inspired by your story, and journey to better your life. and the life of others.

  • George P Wasai Jr

    That is my aunt Janet i am so proud and she makes me want to do so much more with my life

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