Kenyetta was 12 years old when her mom, Peggy, decided to purchase a home from Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity. Kenyetta would ride her bike from their small apartment on Salter Avenue to the build site so she could anxiously watch the progress on their house. When they moved in, there were immediate changes, Kenyetta remembers. Her mom was able to fix the house up as their own for the first time, they stopped moving every couple of years, and they started having family over regularly. And as Kenyetta entered high school and became an active, honor roll student at Auburn, something else happened in those walls: Kenyetta Watkins became absolutely determined not only to be the first in her family to graduate from high school, but also to go to college. And that’s what she did.
Kenyetta received the Habitat for Humanity Scholarship — a scholarship fund created to help Habitat homeowners and their children further their education — and enrolled at Northern Illinois University, where she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. She pushed even further, going on to receive a Master’s degree in Health Administration. And Kenyetta did all that while raising her little boy, Domyick, who was a toddler when she first enrolled at NIU. As a student parent, Kenyetta became the president of NIU’s College Parents Group, and this past year she founded Just Like You, a budding agency in Chicago’s south suburbs to provide mentorship to teen moms who still want to go to college.
When Kenyetta was 12 years old and just moving into their new home, she did not fully realize what a huge thing it was that her mom had accomplished. But over time, she realized how much it changed things.
“I see now that my mom had a weight lifted off of her when she bought that home, and that made it easier for her to parent us,” Kenyetta says. “Without that house, things would have been a lot harder for my mom, which would have made things a lot harder for me.” Kenyetta’s journey has led her away from Rockford, but one thing has remained constant through all her accomplishments and growth, Kenyetta says, and that is her home-base on Sunnyside Avenue. The future home she excitedly biked past as a little girl has become her unfailing anchor as a successful young woman, the foundation of her enormous possibility.