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Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University > Alumni & Friends > Stay Connected > Millikin Quarterly > Posts > Making a Comeback

A native of Springfield, Ill., Jenna Widner McCrady, PACE ’13, first attended Millikin in spring 1997 as a nursing major, but she didn’t stay long. “After I took microbiology,” she says, “I decided nursing wasn’t for me. Science wasn’t the direction I needed to go in.” Her life was moving toward a family. “I ended up meeting my husband, we got married and decided to start a family right away. Once I saw those wheels turning, I decided to wait and postpone my educational career until I was more ready,” McCrady says. Today, she and her husband, Ryan, are raising a 17-year-old son, Alex, an 11-year-old daughter, Alison (pictured with McCrady, above), and an 8-year-old son, Clifton

Since Alison’s birth, McCrady has spent her time primarily as a stay-at-home mom, working part time off and on and volunteering. She taught within her church, worked part time from home as a certified lactation counselor and founded a local chapter of MOMS Club International, an organization committed to bettering the lives of stay-at-home mothers and their children. She continues her volunteer work today, stretching her time and energy across the globe. McCrady and her daughter raise money and sponsor children in Uganda through an organization called Amazina Ministries. “It’s an amazing program,” she says, “led by a very young woman who began adopting children and has dedicated her life to remaining in Uganda for a long time. She is doing a wonderful thing for a lot of children who are orphaned and vulnerable.”

The McCradys became foster parents and offered respite care services through Catholic Charities until eight years ago, when theyv brought home six-day-old Clifton. “Clifton was the first and only full-time foster placement we accepted,” McCrady says. “He was supposed to stay for only a few months.” He never left, and the couple formally adopted him just before his third birthday. The family has been living in Decatur vfor the past four years, since Ryan accepted a position as Decatur’s city manager. When Jenna began considering applying to Millikin’s PACE program for early childhood education, her husband was behind her every step of the way. “He really encouraged me not to have any guilt or feel bad about this choice,” she says. “It’s been the best thing for our family.”

This fall, she was inducted into the national honor society for nontraditional learners, Alpha Sigma Lambda, and has earned a 4.0 GPA since re-entering Millikin. Though still unsure of where her degree will take her, early childhood education offers many professional avenues, such as teaching children between birth and third grade, becoming a developmental therapist or working in special education. “All those areas have interests for me,” McCrady says. “I’ve just loved keeping my options open.” Claudia Nichols Quigg ’75, adjunct instructor of education, recognizes McCrady’s success and drive. “Jenna is that rare student who combines academic excellence with emotional commitment,” she says. “Jenna is an extraordinary scholar whose work I often use as an example for other students to follow. More importantly, she has profound respect for children and families, and a strong desire to support their growth. Millikin will be proud of her contributions to the field of early childhood education in the years to come.”

by Jackson Lewis

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Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
 
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL