Family Members Use Applied Communication Education to Help Prevent Teen Suicide
A mother and daughter duo who are graduating this spring from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock are using their education in applied communication to help prevent teen suicide in Arkansas.
Ebene Givan graduated with a Master of Arts in applied communication studies, while her daughter, Aliya Givan, has earned a bachelor’s degree in applied communication.
“Ever since she was younger, I made college mandatory,” Givan said. “I got my undergraduate degree in 2019, and she graduated from high school in 2019. It was her freshman year that she was undeclared. She told me, ‘Mom, I’ve seen such a change in you with this degree that I want to do the same thing.’ The rest is history.”
Givan recalls that it’s been a long journey to complete her college education. She’s been a single mom to Aliya since 17, and it’s been all about working and providing since then. She earned an associate degree from the University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical Institute in 2007. She first transferred to UA Little Rock in 2008 and has been attending off and on since then.
“School was necessary, but it wasn’t urgent,” Givan said. “Work was a priority. I remember thinking that I kept getting paid these low salaries because I didn’t have a college degree. I started taking it more seriously after the birth of my youngest daughter, who is 7. It’s been a long journey to understand what I needed to do to make enough to support my family. My kids needed to see that finishing strong is the most important thing.
After earning her undergraduate degree in 2019, Givan thought she was finished with college, but then the unthinkable happened.
“In May 2020, my nephew Mike died by suicide,” she said. “It changed everything from my perspective on life to my relationships. I wanted to understand how my degree could be used to help in the fight against suicide. I learned that if you increase connectedness between people, it decreases the risk of suicide. It was a journey that led me to understand that communication increases connectedness, and that led to my desire to get a master’s degree.”
So, Givan returned to UA Little Rock to earn her master’s degree in 2021, which is the same year she started Mike’s Mission, a nonprofit organization named after her nephew that aims to prevent teen suicide by promoting family and community connectedness and providing positive communication in the family dynamic.
“The Applied Communication program has been amazing in so many ways,” she said. “I don’t know of a better faculty and staff than in this program. I’ve made some amazing new friends on this journey. I will cherish every single moment with this program.”
Mike’s Mission holds a variety of trainings that promote positive communication, conflict resolution, and family togetherness. They hold events like basketball tournaments, food drives, and shoe drives. For her graduate project, Givan completed a needs assessment for Mike’s Mission to find out how the nonprofit can help even more families.
“It laid the foundation for what we are able to build in our nonprofit organization, what parents need, and build those trainings accordingly,” Givan said. “It helped me get a good look at how I can partner with parents to help strengthen the parent-child relationship.”
Now that they are graduating, both mother and daughter will be using their education to expand Mike’s Mission, along with their full-time jobs as a training specialist at UAMS and hair salon owner.
Givan is reminded of the fact that Mike would have been 18 this year and should have been headed off to college. She takes comfort in the fact that Mike wanted her to finish college.
“One thing that made this so important for me was a memory from my undergrad years,” Givan said. “I remember going to my sister and just being like, ‘I don’t have the money to buy my books.’ My nephew has never been a fan of tears. He patted me on the back, and said, ‘Titi, it will be alright.’ As I left the house, we had a secret handshake. He gave me money and said, ‘Titi, buy your books. You are going to graduate.’ That is how I knew he wanted me to go to college and graduate.”