Tonya Kent, a John F. Kennedy University student in the JD program, is motivated by kindness to share with members of her community most in need. She splits her time between studying and working to help incarcerated women. Through her own organization Infinite Hope and Restoration, in partnership with other nonprofit organizations, she seeks to support women coming out of prison. She has extended her efforts to share and care for her community with the students at John F. Kennedy University, through a food donation program. We interviewed Tonya to tell us more about this project, and her motivations and ongoing efforts to serve her community.
Free Food for Students in Need
Every Thursday, during the school schedule, starting at 11am, Tonya brings food to John F. Kennedy University which is donated by Trader Joe’s. Anyone at the Pleasant Hill campus can access this food for free at the Student Lounge. An assortment of bread, fruit and sweets are available on the countertop in the vending machine area.
A Message from Tonya on this Project
“I want the students to know that there is food, it is free and there is nothing you need to give back in return. You are loved even if I do not know you. You are not forgotten.”
Back in the Fall of 2017, when Tonya started her program at John F. Kennedy University College of Law, she was struggling economically. She explains “I moved four times and my financial aid wasn’t clear enough for me to know if I would have extra money to be able to buy food. Nobody knew that I was hungry.” When a classmate of hers found out, she supported Tonya by buying food for her when she needed it. Tonya felt grateful and wanted to give back to the John F. Kennedy University community. She explains, “Because of my own personal experience being hungry, I realized that somebody else might be hungry.”
Through a pastor at her church, Tonya partnered up with Trader Joe’s, other nonprofit organizations, churches and Triax, an organization that specializes in Human Rights. The items that she brings to share with the University community expire the same day or few days after so instead of wasting them, Trader Joe’s donates them.
This project is a stepping-stone for a larger project. Tonya is studying Law at John F. Kennedy University because she wants to make positive changes in the justice system. She has started to make those changes by helping imprisoned women. She makes regular visits to talk to the women and gives them encouragement and hope. She created a nonprofit organization, called Infinite Hope and Restoration, aimed to provide a temporary “home” to women that come out of prison. For Tonya, this “home” will be a space for them to recover and re-adjust into society.
Tonya is bringing changes in the community at large by sharing food, encouragement, and kindness. These are all gestures that create meaningful changes for the well-being of her community. In her words, “Sharing food is a way to love. It is my love to you. I love you despite who you are or what color you are.”
Tonya Kent studied at Solano Community College, where she earned three associate degrees: Human Services, Liberal Studies, and Social Sciences. She also attended UC Davis and earned a BS in African American and African Studies. Currently, Tonya is pursuing a JD Law doctoral degree at John F. Kennedy University, while studying Theology online at Jezreel School of Theology. She is the Founder and Director of the nonprofit organization Infinite Hope and Restoration.
By: Clara Valdano, Office of Student Experience at John F. Kennedy University