Cameron University will honor the class of 2012 during its annual Commencement ceremony at 7:30 p.m., Friday, May 4, at Cameron Stadium in Lawton, with guest speaker Toney Stricklin, Oklahoma State Regent for Higher Education. For many, commencement represents more than earning a degree. It serves as a personal milestone for achievement and overcoming adversity. Included below are stories of personal accomplishment of a few graduates from the class of 2012.
Charlie Bingham of Bray had a life-changing experience at the age of 11 that would ultimately impact his career choice later in life: he was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. He found himself having to do or think about things that had a direct impact on his day-to-day health – checking his blood sugar, taking insulin shots, changing his diet, and more. While Charlie learned all he could about diabetes, he realized that many people were unaware of the day-to-day life of a child with diabetes.
“More than the disease itself, I hated the way people treated me,” he says. “Upon hearing I had diabetes, most people in my small town assumed I was no longer capable of achieving my goals. Maybe some kids would have believed that assumption, but I couldn't. I had something to prove to myself and to others.”
Prove it he did. During high school, he excelled in numerous sports, ending his athletic career as captain of the football, baseball, and weightlifting teams. In weightlifting, he won three individual state titles and led his team to one state title.
He attributes his dedication to achieving goals to two important family members: his grandfather and father. “They have shown me how to stay focused on what I know I can achieve,” he says. “They taught me not to settle for good when I can be great, and I have used this way of thinking for most of my life. When I was a child, I thought that to be great meant I had to strive to be better than everyone else; that started my competitive drive.”
That determination to compete is still with him today, yet he recalls a time when that competitiveness became a liability. “When I was young, I didn’t want to be different from my friends, even though I have diabetes,” Charlie explains. “Because I wanted to be like everyone else, I often didn't follow my doctor's orders. When I found out the hard way that not listening to my doctor only hurt me, I learned to be a compliant patient. I have learned much from those experiences, and one of those valuable lessons is how to be compassionate and understanding about how a patient feels.”
At age 16, Charlie became a volunteer firefighter. He also took an Emergency Medical Responder class to see if he would like the medical field. He started working for an ambulance service at age 18, and his experiences convinced him that he indeed belonged in medicine.
He enrolled at Cameron with the goal of becoming a nurse, maintaining a GPA of 3.5 or higher while working three jobs. His goal of becoming a nurse was revamped after his microbiology professor, Dr. Dennis Frisby, suggested that he take a harder look at going to medical school.
“He told me, ‘You have the potential to go on to med school and become a doctor.’ I didn't believe him at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea” Charlie says. “A few weeks later, while shadowing in the ER, I watched the nurses and doctor treat a patient who had burns to more than 78 percent of his body. I was particularly impressed by how the doctor organized the team and how everyone worked together efficiently and expertly to treat the patient. At that point, I saw myself as a doctor, leading others in high pressure situations.”
Charlie realized that he had the determination, compassion, and leadership skills to be an excellent physician. He changed his major from nursing to biology with a minor in chemistry and started his journey toward medical school. Dr. Frisby became his mentor, and Dr. Carla Guthridge, Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, also provided guidance. Her encouragement led him to become president of the Biology Club for the past two years and president of Cameron’s chapter of Beta Beta Beta, the national biology honor society.
Charlie has shadowed a pediatrician on numerous occasions and has seen the positive aspects of that medical specialty. “As a pediatrician, I could work with kids, get to see them grow into adults, and get to know their families,” he says. “I would strive to know my patients as individuals, rather than just another puzzle to be solved. I believe I would be a great pediatrician. However, my mind is still open to considering other specialties, particularly Emergency Medicine. Medical school will help me decide.”
Charlie is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in biology and a minor in chemistry. He is currently waiting to hear if he has been accepted to medical school. With his determination, there’s no doubt he will ultimately succeed in his goal of becoming a physician.
Antoine Ehouman, a native of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, journeyed more than 6,250 miles to get a college degree. Not because his homeland has been wracked by civil unrest for the better part of a decade, but because university programs in Antoine’s chosen field – agri-business – are virtually non-existent there.
“Someday I want to own and manage my own farm, with swine, sheep and poultry,” Antoine says. “Back home, we’re not self-sufficient in those products. I wanted to get more knowledge and experience so that one day, I can go back home and train people in that area. I learned that colleges in the U.S. had good agricultural programs, so that’s where I needed to be.”
There was just one small problem: Antoine’s native language is French, and he spoke no English. So before heading to Cameron University, he spent one year in Atlanta, Ga., in order to become fluent in English. It’s a skill that he hopes to use once he returns to Africa.
“I want to go beyond the borders of my country,” he explains. “We share borders with English-speaking countries such as Liberia and Ghana. One day, my knowledge in agriculture and animal science might take me there, so I want to be prepared.”
Once he arrived at Cameron, Antoine immersed himself in the agriculture program determined to learn everything he could about animal science. “The agriculture faculty at Cameron is outstanding,” he says. “Dr. (Frank) White was my main instructor. He knows what he’s talking about. The way he teaches, you know you are learning what you need to know. Dr. (Leon) Fischer and Dr. (Jerry) Dodd are also great teachers. I think they make sure every student feels important.”
In February 2010, during Cameron’s annual Red River Career Fair, Antoine met representatives from Smithfield Premium Genetics and learned about the company’s internship program. The following summer, he found himself in Pampa, Texas, at one of Smithfield’s swine farm facilities tasked with developing hogs that are more productive.
“The internship was a great opportunity for me to apply what I had been learning in Dr. White’s classes in a real large-scale agricultural operation,” Antoine says. “Basically they showed me how to run the farm and all the day-to-day business aspects, as well as data collection, artificial insemination, vaccinations and all the activities they utilize to improve the quality of their herd. I also got first-hand training in biosecurity, employee safety and other areas of the business.”
That internship resulted in a job offer, even though Antoine had another year of study to complete his degree.
“When I was leaving, they said I did a good job and said that anytime I wanted to come back, the door was open,” he says. “The manager told me I was welcome anytime.”
The following summer, he served an internship at the Cornell (University) Teaching and Research Center Sheep Farm.
“At Cornell, I learned about sheep production and how to manage an industrial sheep farm,” he says. “Again, it was how to run a large-scale animal operation on a daily basis. We were breeding, hand feeding lambs, rotating the sheep on pasture every three days.”
Last August, with his studies coming to an end in December, Antoine notified Smithfield that he would soon be finishing his degree, a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with a concentration in agricultural business management. A job offer followed, and he became a production manager trainee at Smithfield Premium Genetics at the end of February 2012.
“I’m very happy with this job,” Antoine says. “This is something I like to do. In the future, I want to take this knowledge home so I can train others who are interested in agriculture. I want to educate people in my country about agriculture and why it’s important.”
The Mitchell family
The attainment of a college degree is a cause for celebration, and this year, the Mitchell family of Lawton will celebrate fivefold. Parents Brenda and Calvin Mitchell, son Dominique, and daughters Jennifer and Shavonna have each earned a Cameron degree this spring.
Calvin, Brenda and Jennifer are each receiving a Master of Science in Behavioral Sciences with a concentration in Psychology. Dominique has completed a Bachelor of Arts in English, and Shavonna is getting an Associate in Science degree in Interdisciplinary Studies.
“My parents were from the inner city of Philadelphia, and they didn’t have the opportunity to go to college when they were young,” Dominique says. “My father always talked to us about college. He wanted us to do well and to succeed.”
“Education is the key to success,” Calvin says. “It’s opened doors for us that would not otherwise be opened. I set goals for my family – the minimum standard is a bachelor’s degree, and I also tell the members of our church they should continue their education.”
His wife, Brenda, concurs. “It’s important because we are trying to establish goals for our family, and those goals only come through higher education. We instill in our children and in ourselves that you can do anything if you have an education.”
Calvin served in the U.S. Army for 25 years, settling the family in Lawton after retiring. Brenda was the first in the family to enroll at Cameron, earning a Bachelor of Science in Sociology in 1998.
“When my mom got her bachelor’s degree, that set the bar for all of us,” Dominique says. He earned an Associate in Science in Interdisciplinary Studies in 2005 and a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies in 2006. He is currently enrolled in graduate school.
Calvin earned a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies in 2010, the same year that Jennifer earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.
The quest for education arises from their calling to help people.
“My mother and father are pastors at Grace and Truth Kingdom Harvest,” Dominique says. “Part of their ministry is helping people. Most people in ministry are considered counselors, so they wanted the education and knowledge to help them better understand people.”
The Mitchells’ call to serve includes serving as therapeutic foster parents. Dominique became a foster parent at the age of 21. His parents followed suit, as did Jennifer.
“We just like to serve – that’s the highest calling,” Dominique says.
Like his parents, he is also in the ministry, serving at Rivers of Living Water. “I want to have a positive impact on people every day,” Dominique says. “I want to write and teach. My goal is to become a motivational speaker.”
Jennifer hopes to one day go into the counseling field to help families, but for now, she’s getting ready to open Excel Learning Academy, an accredited daycare center. She believes her master’s degree will be an asset when she opens her own business. “My classwork and education have provided me with knowledge about community resources for families who are struggling, so that will help me to assist potential clients that need guidance.”
“She’s following in her mother’s footsteps,” Calvin says. “Brenda began her career in daycare in 1993. From 2000 until 2009, she operated Little Blessings here in Lawton, and we hope to reestablish it soon.”
Dominique is proud that his younger sister Shavonna chose to go to Cameron. “She received a scholarship to go to any school in the state, and she chose to stay here and to go Cameron with the family. She will stay in school to complete her bachelor’s degree.”
“She wants to be a dentist,” Brenda says. “We know that ultimately she will have to complete her education elsewhere, but we were thrilled when she decided to enroll at Cameron to get started.”
Youngest daughter Carryssa, a sophomore at Lawton High School, is determined to continue her education as well and plans to become a physician.
“Everything we do is to help the community,” Jennifer says. “My father has made so much of an impact in our family because of his desire to help others. Dominique works with the mentally disabled, Shavonna works with children, and my older sister Alycia (Kinchloe) is a disability attorney in Philadelphia. My parents have established a legacy for us to follow.”
On Saturday, May 5, Staff Sergeant Michael Postoak will receive his commission as Second Lieutenant, one day after graduating Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies through Cameron’s U.S. Army ROTC program. Serving as an officer in the U.S. Army is the culmination of a goal he set in January 2010, when he applied to the Army’s Green-To-Gold program.
For the Oklahoma City native, achieving goals is nothing new. Adopted by his great-aunt and great-uncle at the age of 1, Michael recalls the many conversations he had with his “mom.”
“When I was a little kid, we used to sit up at night, stay out on the porch and talk,” he says. “She’d tell me stories about when she was a kid and other family stories. I had older brothers and sisters who never finished high school, and she was so concerned about that. All through my childhood, I promised her I would finish high school. My whole goal was to make her proud.”
He became the first high school graduate in his family, fulfilling a promise he made to his adoptive mother before she passed away when he was 14. Michael then joined then U.S. Army. After completing his basic training at Fort Knox, Ky., he found himself deployed to Afghanistan as a power generator mechanic within three weeks of arriving at his first duty station in January 2002. Two other deployments - both to Iraq -followed.
He began taking college courses in 2007, but his studies were interrupted during deployment. Then he found himself stationed at Fort Sill as an officer instructor.
“We’d get second lieutenants straight out of commissioning and would instruct them for eight weeks,” he explains. “I was taking college courses and had thought about the Green-To-Gold program, along with one of my buddies, Chris Guthrie. A Cameron graduate came through our training. He knew we were interested in Green-To-Gold, so he talked to us about it and even brought us to campus to talk to the recruiters here. It was ideal being at Fort Sill, with Cameron being right here.”
Both he and Guthrie applied to the Green-To-Gold program, which allows enlisted soldiers to earn an officer’s commission and a college degree as a full-time college student through Army ROTC. The prestigious program accepts only 100 enlisted soldiers from across the country each year. They were both accepted, becoming full-time college students.
Last summer, Postoak was named the number four cadet in his platoon at the Leadership Development and Assessment Course at Fort Lewis, Wash., a five-week course that evaluates and trains Army ROTC cadets between their junior and senior years. He also earned an “E” rating, which exceeds the national average in leadership.
During his tenure as a Cameron cadet, he and his wife Adelaida were also raising a family. In addition to their own children, 6-year-old Meka and 3-year-old Shane, they adopted two of Postoak’s younger siblings, Samuel, age 12, and Gabriela, age 9, who were in state custody after their biological mother passed away.
“I talked to my wife about bringing them into our family, and we agreed to take them right away,” he says. “It took six months, but finally in March 2010, they came to live with us. The adoption was final last September.”
After receiving his commission, Postoak will ship to Fort Stewart, Ga., where he has been assigned to the Army Corps of Engineers. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in engineering.
He has high praise for Cameron’s George D. Keathley Department of Military Science.
“I’ve enjoyed the camaraderie with my fellow cadets,” he says. “The cadre and staff have been so supportive of everything you do to become an officer. LTC (Rod) Boles (Chair) makes time for every cadet and turns every situation into a learning experience on how to be an officer. MSG (Marreio) Shepherd has had a major impact on my education here. The mentorship has been incredible.”
In April 2009, when Halliburton Energy Services in Duncan relocated jobs overseas, Linda Powell found herself out of work. She realized that in order to find a better-paying job, she needed training and education, so she enrolled at Red River Technology Center that August. Then, when she discovered that she was eligible for a $15,000 scholarship through the federal government’s Labor Trade Readjustment Act in addition to her unemployment benefits, she jumped at the opportunity to enroll at Cameron University.
For the better part of a year, Linda juggled full-time classes at both institutions. “It was extremely difficult,” she says. “I had a spreadsheet set up in calendar format to allocate time for studying, showing assignment due dates, etc. I was on a very rigid schedule - I even scheduled downtime to make sure I took time to relax! I have great time management skills, but if my husband Mark (Cariker) and family (sons Tommy Alls and Jesse Alls and daughter Victoria Powell) had not been as supportive as they were, I couldn’t have done it.”
After taking six nine-week sessions at Red River, she earned certifications as an administrative medical assistant, an administration assistant and an accounts receivable clerk. She could have stopped there, but Linda discovered she truly loved the college experience she was having at Cameron.
“Susan Camp (director of CU-Duncan) and the staff at the Duncan campus are so supportive of the students,” Linda says. “I will never forget the kindness and the caring and the encouragement I received from so many people to whom education is important, including my instructors in Lawton as well. I am so amazed to discover people like that exist – people who understand the value of a college degree and do everything they can to help you earn one. They deserve the highest accolades.”
Linda enrolled with an eye toward earning a degree in business, but then realized that English was a natural fit for her due to her love of writing. In December 2011, she completed the degree requirements for an Associate in Science Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in Business and English.
“My experience at Cameron exposed me to a lot of different ideas that I had never been exposed to before,” Linda says. “Cameron is a diverse community, a strong community, and I faced challenges that I never had before. I appreciate the integrity and the way Cameron is represented in the community – in both Duncan and Lawton. I’m so proud to be an Aggie! To earn a degree from Cameron, to know that I graduated from a top notch school, it’s almost overwhelming to me, coming from generations of poverty in my family and not having the opportunity for an advanced education. Cameron has given me something that I value so deeply. Cameron is like my fairy godmother, giving me my chance to go to the ball.”
As proud as Linda is of her Cameron degree, she’s prouder still that her own journey through higher education inspired her daughter Victoria to go to college.
“She had not intended to go to college,” Linda says. “I told her that a college education is the key to establishing yourself in this world. I didn’t have that option when I was growing up, and I wanted her to know she did have that option. She was inspired to go to school because of what I was doing, how hard I was working and how much I was enjoying it.”
Linda will start a new job in the finance department at Halliburton in early May, but that doesn’t mean she’s finished with her education. “I will go back to school in August with some online courses to get my bachelor’s degree, even if it’s only six hours a semester. Then I will continue working toward a master’s degree. I may be 90 years old before I get my master’s, but I will attain it!”
April 27, 2012