The Edmonds College Board of Trustees named Jennifer Cunningham as the 2023 Washington State Association of College Trustees (ACT) Transforming Lives and Edmonds College Board of Trustees award recipient and Amna Janoo as the Presidential Transforming Lives award recipient. The Edmonds College Board recognized both during Thursday’s monthly meeting on campus.
The Washington State Association of College Trustees (ACT) created the Transforming Lives Awards program in 2012 to recognize current or former students who have been transformed by pursuing higher education at a community or technical college.
Cunningham was one of 34 Transforming Lives awardees from across the state selected by each college’s respective board of trustees. She received a $250 award from the ACT and $250 from the Edmonds Board. To view this year’s nominees and their stories, visit sbctc.edu.
Edmonds College Board Chair Adrianne Wagner said, “Jennifer and Amna are shining examples of the transformative power of education. Their dreams of a better and brighter future have been made possible by their determination and willingness to work hard. The Board of Trustees and leadership of Edmonds College are proud to recognize their success stories, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
Cunningham overcame many barriers, including addiction and poverty, and is currently working towards earning her Bachelor of Applied Science at Edmonds College. Her parents were drug addicts, and she was homeless for many years of her childhood. She eventually became a product of her environment and dropped out of school in the seventh grade, and spent 25 years addicted to drugs.
When she was 30 years old, Cunningham earned her GED at Edmonds College but still struggled with addiction. By April 2017, she was able to break the cycle and become clean. It was then that she decided to pursue higher education.
“I suffered from the guilt and shame of dragging my kids with me through my years of addiction,” Cunningham said. “The damage I caused made me feel like I didn’t deserve a better way of life. I had become my biggest obstacle.
“I was about 18 months clean when I decided to return to school. I chose to grow through everything that had kept me from being my best self. At first, I just enrolled at Edmonds to get a certificate in Family Support Studies, but once I got a taste of higher education, I wanted more.”
After graduating with her certificates, Cunningham went on to earn two Associate in Human Services degrees in the spring of 2022. She is currently in her second year in the Bachelor of Applied Science in Child, Youth, and Family Studies program at Edmonds, while also participating in the Leadership Snohomish County Signature Program.
“My barriers are now nonexistent,” said Cunningham. “I’ve achieved more than I ever dreamed of or expected. Through the power of education, my lived experience has become an asset rather than a liability. My next goal is to serve my community of North Everett with integrity, empathy, and understanding.”
Janoo is the inaugural recipient of the Presidential Transforming Lives award. She is the second eldest of six children and is adamant about breaking stereotypical expectations for Pakistani women in her culture and becoming a first-generation college graduate.
“The majority of the Pakistani community believes that success and recognition for women lie in marriage,” said Janoo, who will receive $250 as the Presidential award recipient. “However, success and recognition in my dictionary lie in pursuing higher education and accomplishing my dreams and goals, compelling me to enroll as a Running Start student at Edmonds College.”
She wants to eventually earn a degree in business and attend a four-year university.
“Using the opportunities given to me through Edmonds College, I want to accomplish what many Pakistani women aren’t able to do: plan and write their future for themselves,” Janoo said. “Edmonds College has provided me with key networking skills, a diverse community, and exposure to the business field through classes like business law. I want to be around POC (people of color) who, like me, strive to work towards their future success by lifting others as they climb.”
“Amna Janoo is a very deserving recipient of the inaugural Presidential Transforming Lives award,” said Edmonds College President Dr. Amit B. Singh. “She is redefining expectations in her culture and advocating for other underserved and underrepresented communities. We are very proud of Amna’s accomplishments and excited to see her impact on the community.”
The Edmonds College Board of Trustees Transforming Lives Awards program was established in 2021 and serves to augment the ACT award.
Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.