Mona Lisa King-Ward understands how to overcome challenges.
She lost part of her leg to bone cancer when she was just 10.
Through her job at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and her volunteer work with a campus organization, she helps young people understand the importance of persevering.
“Nothing should be able to keep you from reaching goals,’’ she said.
King-Ward is an associate in the Office of Multicultural Affairs at UNO. She is also volunteer adviser for the UNO chapter of the National Council of Negro Women.
She began working at UNO 14 years ago and has served in the multicultural affairs office for the past seven.
King-Ward has a range of duties including helping students find and apply for scholarships. She also teaches sessions on note taking and test taking.
Her main goal is to help students succeed in college and find good careers.
“When they leave I cry,’’ she said. “I’m so proud of them, (but) I miss them.”
James Freeman, director of the office, said King-Ward has a great touch with students. When students walk in with a problem, King-Ward not only helps solve it but encourages them.
“She lifts them up,’’ he said.
King-Ward experienced her own academic success this spring. In May she graduated from UNO with a bachelor’s degree in continuing studies with an emphasis in health education and gerontology.
The campus organization she volunteers with is partly a service organization. The group’s efforts include helping the Salvation Army deliver Thanksgiving meals.
Students also learn leadership skills. Every year the group sponsors a formal banquet to honor community volunteers and leaders. Students handle all the details such as lining up the caterer and seeking financial contributions from local businesses.
King-Ward was born and raised in Omaha and graduated from Northwest High School.
She had just finished fourth grade when she was diagnosed with bone cancer. Doctors had to amputate her left leg above the knee and she underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
She says she has never let her circumstances slow her down.
Recently she was at the grocery store and an employee asked if she wanted to use one of the motorized scooters.
“I said, ‘I’m too sexy for that,’” she said.
So what about her name, Mona Lisa?
Her older siblings suggested the name when she was born because she was smiling and looked as “pretty as a picture.”
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