Tag Archives: St. Jude Children’s Hospital

TSU agriculture student embodies the Tiger Spirit in fight against rare cancer 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – For Zaria Hunter, this semester marks her triumphant return to Tennessee State University as she continues the battle of her life against a rare form of cancer.  

In 2021, Hunter started her spring semester of sophomore year off strong, studying agriculture sciences with a pre-veterinary medicine concentration.

Zaria Hunter. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

But Hunter’s school year took a turn when she began having constant, severe headaches. Something she expected to pass overtime with some medication. What Hunter didn’t expect, was to spend her 20th birthday in St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis fighting the rare cancer that was ravishing her body and had already reached stage 4. 

In April 2021, Hunter’s family discovered that the cancerous cells had already spread throughout her body.

“It was in my liver, brain, lungs, spine and hip bone,” Hunter shared.

During her five month stay at St. Jude, Hunter experienced going into a coma several times, one of which lasted four days.

“That’s when things were getting rough,” she added.  Hunter, an Atlanta native, was frail and couldn’t walk. Standing 5-foot-4 inches tall at 85 pounds, she underwent seven rounds of intravenous chemotherapy and surgery to receive an implanted port in her chest.  

While Hunter was in Memphis for treatment, her long-time friend from high school who also attends TSU, Chayne Alexander, prayed for her recovery and return to the university. 

“Her family had reached out to her friends and once I found out, I instantly started crying,” Alexander said. “Because I’ve experienced this feeling before when I lost my granddad, so I was hurt to the core.”

Alexander said their friends supported and prayed for Hunter every day, keeping their faith. 

In 2021, Zaria was hospitalized for five months after being diagnosed with a rare cancer. (Photo submitted)

And so did Dr. De’Etra Young, the Associate Dean for Academics in the college of agriculture.

“When Zaria was hospitalized, we communicated frequently,” Dr. Young said, noting that Hunter was concerned about her schoolwork, staying hopeful in her return to TSU. “Her desire to return to school while fighting cancer, is determination that I have never seen before,” Young said.

“She inspires me. Her resilience speaks to the caliber of what type of student she is. To know that she is still fighting and staying uplifted, I look forward to the day she graduates,” Young said.

“Once a tiger, always a tiger.”

Zaria at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
learning how to walk again.

Fellow students and professors say despite how ill Hunter became, she always kept a smile on her face throughout her journey. After her five months stay at the hospital, Hunter was released and began her daily dosage of oral chemotherapy.  

“I never lost who I was when I was in the hospital,” Hunter said. “I kept high spirits and stayed positive.”

This semester, Hunter is back in Nashville battling a small percentage of cancer that is only in her lungs now.

Hunter is visiting St. Jude once a month for checkups while she is pursuing her dream at TSU to become a veterinarian.

“It feels great to be back,” she said. “My determination to be better, and to do better kept me going … I was praying for these better days,” she smiled.

Zaria Hunter, who aspires to become a veterinarian, feeding goats at Tennessee State University’s agricultural farm. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

She said that although balancing school and her social life while fighting cancer will get tricky, she knows that she is up for the challenge. “God let me know that it was going to get rough in the beginning but … I never gave up on myself,” she said.

Hunter said she is thankful for her support system at TSU and looks forward to being cancer free, and most importantly, getting her degree with the ultimate goal of becoming a veterinarian. 

For Tennessee State University, Southern Heritage Classic game Cancellation Not a Loss

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Although the much-anticipated 29th Southern Heritage Classic football game was canceled due to inclement weather, TSU’s spirit remained high.

The university experienced gains in recruitment, fundraising and community relations – three of TSU’s main goals at the annual gathering.

Emily Greer, Chief Administrative Officer of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, welcomes President Glenda Glover during a guided tour of the world renowned hospital. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

The game between TSU and Jackson State University scheduled for Sept. 8 was eventually called off because of inclement weather.

TSU, with a 17-11 SHC record, was looking to extend its current win streak, which stands at 6-0 over JSU. Last year, the TSU Tigers defeated the JSU Tigers 17-15 before more than 47,000 fans in the Liberty Bowl.

While there was obvious disappointment, it did not overshadow positive experiences that occurred during the weekend.

Leading up to the game, TSU officials, administrators and staff engaged in a number of activities around Memphis.  Among them, a life changing experience when TSU President Glenda Glover was taken on a guided tour of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the only facility in the world with a research center and a hospital in the same venue.

The TSU Aristocra of Bands participates in the 29th Southern Heritage Classic Parade in Memphis on Sept. 8. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

Accompanied by former Memphis Mayor AC Wharton, and Richard Lee Snow, senior adviser for Multicultural Marketing & Business Development for St. Jude, Glover saw labs and research facilities. She also received the history on the vision of St. Jude’s founder Danny Thomas, the evolution of the hospital, as well as its partnership with African-American communities, institutions and organizations.

Hospital employees who are TSU graduates were among those who greeted Glover. Earlier, Emily Greer, chief administrative officer of the St. Jude Children’s Hospital and Research Center, received Glover.

“It was phenomenal to see all the research that’s being done to save lives,” Glover said. “I am also amazed to see the generosity of the hospital as it pertains to patients, when families’ only concern is the well-being of their child and not costs. That is truly amazing.”

TSU sophomore Rachelle Brown. (Submitted photo)

The rain also didn’t stop Tennessee State University sophomore Rachelle Brown from winning big at the Classic. Brown received the first of four $10,000 McDonald’s “True to the HBCU” scholarships, facilitated by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. While maintaining a 3.8 grade point average, the Memphis native was active in her community: sorting and packaging food at the Second Harvest Food Bank in Nashville, Tennessee; collecting supplies for homeless women and victims of natural disasters in the Virgin Islands; and serving as a reading volunteer with Smart Baby, an organization promoting childhood literacy to children.

“I chose to attend an HBCU, for the rich education, both inside and outside the classroom,” Brown said. “I wanted to go to a college that would encourage me to step outside of my comfort zone and provide me with an atmosphere designed to promote excellence.”

Memphis WANTV Local 24 reporter Jeané Franseen interviews President Glover Sept. 7 during a morning show outside the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

As for recruitment, officials said a number of top graduating high school seniors who attended TSU’s Memphis Recruitment Reception on Sept. 7 have signed on to attend the university next fall. They said nearly 80 percent of the students who attended the reception in the Sheraton Memphis Downtown Hotel have already met “scholarship requirements.”

“We have already received their scholarship applications, transcripts and ACT scores,” said Dr. Gregory Clark, director of high school relations and NCAA certification at TSU. To be considered for a scholarship, a candidate must have at least a 3.0 GPA and 21 or higher on the ACT.

More than 200 high school seniors from the West Tennessee area and their parents attended the standing-room-only program in one of the hotel’s reception areas.

Jovon Jones, associate director of recruitment at TSU, talks to students and parents about scholarship requirements and deadlines at recruitment reception. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

According to officials of the Office of Institutional Advancement, this year’s Alumni Mixer – a key fundraising event of the Classic week – was a big success. With President Glover and Dr. Lesia Crumpton-Young, vice president for Research and Institutional Advancement leading the charge, more than $20,000 was raised and nearly 20 new individuals joined the President’s Society. These are individuals who commit to contributing $1,000 or more a year.

“We just want to say thank you for all that you do for Tennessee State University to help keep needy students in school,” Glover said. “Your continued financial, material and other support and gifts are making a big difference in our students’ lives. We are thankful beyond measure for your support.”

During the week, Glover, accompanied by several senior university officials, also visited Power Center Academy High School and Whitehaven High School where she spoke to students and administrators, and answered questions about the importance of a college education and the programs and offerings at TSU.

Earlier on Saturday, Glover, the TSU Aristocrat of Bands, student organizations, including Mr. TSU and Miss TSU and their court, lead the 29th Southern Heritage Classic Parade in Memphis, with thousands along the route cheering on parade participants.

Next year’s Southern Heritage Classic football game is scheduled for Sept. 14.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209

About Tennessee State University

With more than 8,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.