Sacramento woman overcomes layoff, ADHD to graduate Benerd College

Katie Kanowsky Souza

Katie Kanowsky Souza hopes to take the knowledge she gained at Pacific to support teachers and students create a foundation for mindfulness in the classroom.

Katie Kanowsky Souza is not a “traditional” Pacific student. She is a working mother of three who decided to make her education a priority.

A culinary school graduate, she was a pastry chef for 15 years, but then found herself laid off and wanting her life to be different. Looking to change careers, her family encouraged her to pursue her degree.

School was always a challenge for Kanowsky. As a child she was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, which created a lot of anxiety for her when it came to education and she dropped out of high school at 15 years old. While she later got her proficiency exam and the thought of working toward her degree was scary, she knew it was something she wanted to achieve.

“There is no wrong time to go back to school,” Kanowsky said. “Statistically, all odds were against me as a single mother. I never believed I could do the things I am doing now and it’s all because I went back to finish my education.”

To begin her transition back to school, Kanowsky decided to enroll at Sacramento City College. After earning her associate degree there, she transferred to University of the Pacific and enrolled in the organizational behavior program. She was attracted to the program after first reading about the Organizational Learning and Effectiveness graduate degree, but then discovered the undergraduate degree option.

The program worked well for her busy lifestyle because it’s designed for working adults and offers evening and online class options. Also, the personalized support from faculty and staff made a huge difference.

“As a first-generation college student, I did not have someone to help guide me through my college experience,” Kanowsky recalled. “Having staff and faculty members advocate for me made all the difference in my success.”

And along the way, she knew that she could also count on the support of her fellow students.

“My cohort has been like a second family for me. I knew I could always rely on them for support,” Kanowsky said. “Our program is so fast paced and at times it was hard to maintain my sanity. Without this group, I could not have accomplished all of my goals.”

With that unwavering support and her hard work and dedication, Kanowsky graduated with her bachelor’s degree this spring.

“It is very emotional for me to not be having an in-person commencement this May,” Kanowsky said. “But I truly appreciate how Pacific is making every effort to honor our accomplishments. Through constant communications, video messages, care packages and a virtual ceremony UOP has made us feel celebrated.”

Kanowsky hopes to take the knowledge she gained at Pacific to support teachers and students create a foundation for mindfulness in the classroom. To make this impact, she feels the need to get involved in local and state policy and is planning to run for school board in 2022.