by Julia Brown
February 14, 2023
The current president of Texas Southern University’s Golden Key chapter has four degrees under her belt, maintains an excellent GPA, and has attended three different colleges. Since Golden Key members need to be within the top 15 percent of their class, the president of a chapter having such an outstanding educational back story may not be surprising. However, what may be surprising is her journey before her current success.
Renata Givens, also known as Precious to her friends and family, was born in New Orleans, LA, but lived in the state of Texas most of her life. In 2005, when she 24-years-old, Givens had just found out that she was pregnant with her first child. During this time, she lived in New Orleans, LA. While the news of her first pregnancy was exciting, a storm was (literally) brewing that would change Given’s life forever.
Hurricane Katrina landed in New Orleans, LA, and Givens had to fight to survive. Givens said, “I cannot swim, and I was pregnant, trying to stay afloat above the water.” She had to wear the same clothes for a week before being rescued and evacuated to Corpus Christi, TX.
After surviving the biggest ordeal in her life thus far, Givens was offered a full scholarship to Del Mar College in Texas and intended to pursue nursing. Unfortunately, this was when the father of Given’s unborn child became abusive and she went into premature labor and gave birth to her stillborn child at home.
It took Givens another two years before she had the strength to leave, but her loss caused her so much grief and mental turmoil that she had to drop out of Del Mar College. “I had no support and no family. I had nobody,” said Givens.
Givens still had her job but no longer had a place to live. She spent nights sleeping on church benches, steps, and even under bridges. “I never asked anybody for anything,” said Givens. She continued to work and fight for herself until she was back on her feet again. In 2008 Givens moved from Corpus Christi to San Antonio, TX, where she got a new job with McDonald’s. At this time in her life, givens felt on top of the world. “[I was] doing great, [and] I finally allowed myself to get closure from my firstborn.”
However, an unfortunate side effect of homelessness is exposure and addiction. Like many, Givens was not immune to this aspect, and her addiction cost her more than anyone should ever have to pay. “I went through another loss with my second child,” said Givens, who was then hospitalized for her mental health.
Still, through all of the obstacles she faced, Givens never gave up on her dreams and maintained her kind heart.
After hitting yet more obstacles, Givens was able to turn her life around for the better. Still, the specific moment that spring-boarded her positive trajectory was a man who showed her human kindness in June 2017 during her lowest moment. “I did not know him, and he did not know me,” said Givens. “He gave me his blanket so that I could sleep for the night.” The very next day, Givens enrolled herself in Houston Community College.
Despite facing ongoing homelessness, Givens never lost her ambition and drive. She persisted through her courses at Houston Community and earned her first associate degree in 2019. That same year, she enrolled at Texas Southern University, becoming a concurrently enrolled student.
Despite early challenges in her college career, she not only made it through her first semester at TSU, but she excelled with a 3.66 GPA. Givens said, “It showed me just how strong I really am.” She’s now a college graduate with four degrees. She’s the current president of TSU’s Golden Key chapter and plans to pursue her nursing degree and ultimately work in pediatric orthopedic oncology.
Indeed, Given’s story is the personification of the proverb, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” She continued pushing forward even when it seemed the world was against her. “I never gave up on my goals, I fought through things, whereas other students would have dropped out by now, but I didn’t.”