Student Spotlight: Janaya Thomas

Janaya Thomas
Janaya Thomas

Travelers EDGE Scholar heading for Augsburg

Janaya Thomas was only 12 years old when her mom passed away. Janaya and her younger sister, Tiara, were taken in by their grandparents, but that outcome wasn’t meant to be.

“I was separated from my sister when I was placed in a foster home,” Janaya remembered. “I eventually went to stay with my biological father, but that didn’t work out. Through it all, I stayed focused on my education. My mom had been a tremendous role model for me.”

Today, Janaya, 22, is a sophomore at Inver Hills Community College. She’s scheduled to graduate in May 2018 with her Associate of Arts (A.A.) with plans to transfer to Augsburg University.

“My goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems,” she said, noting that information technology offers a wide variety of career paths to explore. “I would like to work in the IT field at the management level at a company that values and encourages women seeking careers in STEM. My long-term plan is to become an entrepreneur and run my own tech company.”

Time at Inver Hills…

Janaya has made the most of her two-year college experience. As a Travelers EDGE Scholar, she is busy completing a paid internship as a business analyst at the Metropolitan Council. She obtained that opportunity through the Travelers EDGE Scholarship program. She also received two $1,000 Travelers scholarships, one for fall semester 2017 and one for spring semester 2018.

Thanks to her 3.75 GPA, Janaya received a $21,000 Transfer Regents Scholarship to help pay for her schooling at Augsburg. She is very grateful for the scholarship dollars because she is determined to accrue as little student loan debt as possible.

“This summer I will be interning at Travelers in St. Paul,” she said. “My job will be working on information delivery, or analytics. It’s a full-time paid internship and I’m really looking forward to working at Travelers. As an EDGE Scholar, I have learned so much about becoming a working professional—and I’ve also created a great network of support.”

Janaya belongs to Phi Theta Kappa and TRIO Student Support Services at Inver Hills. She recommends both PTK and TRIO as ideal ways for students to make friends, learn about academic and career opportunities, and build their resumes through activities and volunteer experiences. Her participation in PTK earned Janaya a $2,500 Phi Theta Kappa Scholarship from Augsburg.

“Take advantage of as many opportunities as you can while you’re at Inver,” she said. “You never know where they will lead you.”

More about Travelers EDGE

Empowering Dreams for Graduation and Employment (EDGE) Scholarship

To ensure a qualified workforce for tomorrow, Travelers is contributing to a wide range of educational projects today. In 2007, the company launched the Travelers EDGE: Empowering Dreams for Graduation, a holistic approach to education that is the formula for success for underrepresented students. Through partnerships with colleges, universities and community-based programs, we are increasing access to higher education and providing students with the opportunity to excel.

As part of the program, Travelers partners with colleges, universities and community-based programs committed to helping students from underrepresented communities succeed. Aims include:

  • Increasing pipeline of underrepresented students to college
  • Helping students from underrepresented communities graduate from college
  • Building awareness of careers in insurance and financial services

Read more…

Travelers EDGE Scholarship application DEADLINE EXTENDED.

Applications accepted until Friday, April 13, 2018.

Travelers EDGE Scholarship Application


More about Janaya…

Originally from Robbinsdale, Minnesota, Janaya is a graduate of Simley High School, Class of 2013. She attended Inver for one semester as a PSEO student, completing two high school trimesters early and graduating with honors. Along the way, she earned her Veterinary Assistant certificate.

When she’s not studying or working as an intern at the Metropolitan Council, Janaya enjoys practicing vinyasa and other styles of yoga on a regular basis at home. She also practices meditation.

“I am into Law of Attraction Meditation,” she said. “I believe we can change our mindset and realize we are the creators of our own lives. I also like using the Buddhify meditation and mindfulness app on my phone.”

Janaya resides in Minneapolis with her fiancé, Shaun, 23, who is studying computer science at Inver Hills; Shaun also plans on transferring to Augsburg. Her sister, Tiara, 21, has a son Briar, making Janaya a proud aunt. She enjoys listening to audio books, singing and playing the piano. She also loves spending time with her three cats, a Calico named Lily, a black cat named Arcadia and a tabby named Zeus. With May on the horizon, Janaya is looking forward to one of her favorite pastimes: heading to the farmers’ market to buy fresh fruit and veggies all summer long.

Janaya Thomas Q & A

Janaya Thomas
Janaya Thomas

Why did you choose Inver Hills?
I really enjoyed going there as a PSEO student and just decided to continue after graduating from high school.

What has been your most memorable experience at Inver Hills?
Being a a Travelers EDGE Scholar has taught me so much. I am so grateful for the community I have built around the program.

What did you choose your future career field?
I chose technology as my future career because there is so much to be learned from it. Tech is constantly changing and improving the world around us. I can relate to that as a person because I am constantly finding ways to improve and reinvent myself. There is also a lot of creativity within technology, too. I am a highly creative person.

Three words that describe you as a college student:

What has been your toughest challenge in life?
My greatest challenge in life was losing my mom (Dawn April Marie) when I was 12. It hit me really hard and made it difficult to want to continue my plans for school. However, my mom really valued education and I used that as a way to push myself to focus on my education, knowing that with time things would get so much better. I also wanted to make my mom proud.

What is your greatest accomplishment?
Overcoming all the obstacles that tried to get in my way when I was determined to focus on my goals and dreams in life.

What person has influenced you the most in life?
My mom and sister, Tiara. My mom because she had instilled the value of knowledge in me from a young age and encouraged me to do what I want with my life. My sister because she constantly loves and supports me.

What would you tell a high school student who is considering community college?
I would tell them not to be afraid of trying new things and exploring. On the other side of any fear is something great that can create an abundance of opportunities for them.

Janaya Thomas | 21 Answers


  1. Favorite season: Fall
  2. aaa_la-pushFavorite natural feature (e.g., waterfalls, oceans, mountains, etc.): Ocean waves—I especially liked visiting La Push Beach on the Pacific Coast in Washington.
  3. Favorite sport or physical activity: Yoga and high-intensity interval training
  4. Your national bird if you could have one: Peacock
  5. Place you would most like to visit: Stockholm, Sweden
  6. Favorite holiday: Christmas
  7. Your national mammal if you could have one: Bunny—I used to have several domestic rabbits, a Flemish giant, a lionhead, a dwarf and more…
  8. Favorite actor or actress: Bill Skarsgård
  9. Favorite band or performing artist: Ariana Grande
  10. aaa_itYour personal motto if you had to have one: “Positive thoughts creative positive outcomes in life. You are the creator of your world!”
  11. Coolest thing in the world: Languages
  12. Scariest thing in the world: Cliff diving
  13. Favorite all-time TV show: True Blood
  14. Favorite all-time movie: V for Vendetta
  15. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Study abroad in Sweden
  16. Most precious material possession: My mothers ring
  17. First thing you would buy if you won the $1.5 billion Powerball: A place for my sister and her son—and travel for the rest of my life.
  18. aaa_vDream occupation: To be the CEO of a large tech company
  19. Person you would most like to meet: Will Smith
  20. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Time management
  21. Humankind’s greatest challenge: Understanding
To learn more about TRIO Student Support Services and Travelers EDGE at Inver Hills, contact:

Matt Kruger
TRIO Student Support Services Director
Travelers EDGE Director

To learn more about Phi Theta Kappa at Inver Hills, contact:

Vicky Knickerbocker
Humanities and Human Services Faculty
Phi Theta Kappa Faculty Advisor

To learn more about earning an Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree at Inver Hills, contact:

Admissions Team
College Center

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