Single mother works hard to provide better life for her son

Emily "Addie" McClenny

When Emily “Addie” McClenny gave birth to her son, Phariss, seven years ago, that was the moment she decided to go back to college. 

“He’s the reason I do any of this,” McClenny, of Little Rock, said. “The sole reason to come back to college was to give my son and I a chance at a better life.”

McClenny has faced several hardships since starting at UA Little Rock in 2014. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in applied communication and a minor in information technology on Dec. 16 in the Jack Stephens Center.

During her second semester, McClenny went blind in her left eye in spring 2015, which led to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

“My first treatment didn’t go so well, and I was in and out of the hospital three times,” she said. “The last time I left the hospital in a wheelchair and started the fall 2016 semester having to learn to walk again. I was in physical therapy for three months.”

McClenny is very grateful to friends and family members who stepped in to help take care of her and her son.

“I am grateful to all my friends and family who stepped up to help make this degree possible,” she said. “You really feel down when you can’t take care of your own child. I wouldn’t have stayed in school if it wasn’t for their support. Being a single parent, it truly takes more than just myself. That is why I work so hard.”

Her hard work, academic excellence, and perseverance has led McClenny to receive the Making a Difference award from the Department of Applied Communication, the Outstanding Student award from the Department of Information Technology, and the Scholar of the Year award from the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Pulaski County.

McClenny cites the staff at the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Pulaski County, which awards $900 a semester to single parents to be used for living expenses and child care, with being one of the reasons she was able to stay in college.

“They helped me stay in contact with my professors and got me connected with disability resources and helped me go through all these things to keep me successful in my coursework,” she said. “They are the only scholarship I know that does that.”

Despite the hardships she has faced, McClenny has worked hard and come out on top. She has worked for the Communication Skill Center, the Department of Applied Communication, and the Division of Student Affairs.

Additionally, she has served as president of the National Lambda Pi Eta, honor society of the National Communications Association, and is a member of three more honor societies, Phi Kappa Phi, Delta Epsilon Iota, and National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

McClenny isn’t finished with her education. She will begin a master’s degree in education program focusing on learning systems technology in January and will work as a graduate assistant in the Division of Student Affairs. After earning her master’s degree, McClenny wants to help faculty and students by creating online courses.

“My goal is to make educators’ lives easier by creating online curriculum, and I want to help students with different learning styles be able to master those courses,” she said. “I want to transform the in-class experience to an online platform.”

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