By Tracey Furlan
Imagine going to a family reunion at age 13, excited to see everyone and your aunt makes a comment poking you in the stomach, “you’re going to be a fat woman.”
That was reality for Crystal Calhoun, 26, an English major at Lone Star College-Montgomery, and it became part of her inspiration to change her life. She decided at that moment she would not live her aunt’s prediction.
“I felt good about myself when I went from a size 14 dress to a size 4” Crystal said. Her most significant accomplishment would be her weight loss. Making a commitment to eat smaller portions each day and do aerobic exercise three times a week, she has maintained a healthy weight for over seven years. Crystal even does some local modeling. She attends weekend classes at LSC-M.
Crystal, who was born and raised in Spring, Texas, is aspiring to be an author of spiritual and inspirational books. If you ask Crystal what her most unforgettable moment was she said it was when she first spoke publically at a woman’s conference at her church with roughly 50 people in attendance. She was extremely nervous and anxious, but with lots of prayers was able to minister to other women.
Crystal is training to be in a 5K race this spring. Running started as a means to incorporate some cardio into her workout regimen, but now has become a fulfilling hobby. As a result, she has been inspired to run a marathon, boosted by a little encouragement from friends who are fellow marathon runners. She spends almost every lunch hour at work in the gym and runs three to four times a week at least three miles each time.
Reading, exercising, spiritual growth, and spending time with her family is what keeps Crystal grounded and happy with her life. Her hero is her mother. Crystal said “she is the most selfless person I know.” Her mother has shown her how to walk with integrity, how to love others, and how to stand in faith for the impossible.
Crystal’s absolute favorite book is “Transform Your Thinking, Transform Your Life” by Bill Winston. This book changed her perception of God, herself, her life, and the world around her without a doubt. She is a confident woman and her faith keeps her grounded every day in every way.
By Kellie Pearson
If you ever pass by Jonathon Bradford when walking around campus, you are bound to see him with an iPod jamming out and dancing to his favorite songs, high-fiving his many friends walking by and calling out “What’s up, pimpin’?”, or cracking a joke and making someone laugh. His love for life and people has always been a part of who he is, but one would never think that this class clown has once gone through and suffered the unimaginable.
Jonathon, or JB as most people call him, grew up in the Dugan area of Conroe with his four older brothers and sister as his mother struggled to provide for her six children, dealing with her husband as a crack-cocaine addict. She worked as a taxi driver, driving her own car around to transport people to and from places they needed to go. JB’s mother often took him and his sister with her to various places, which JB recalls as one of his favorite memories of his childhood.
“I was a big Momma’s boy,” he says. He absolutely loved spending time with her, and always got upset when he had to stay at home with his older siblings while she had to run errands without him.
JB’s mom got him involved in sports as early as first grade when he first started playing football and baseball. In third grade, he began playing basketball. He attributes all his athletic ability to his mom.
“I like to think of it as when I am out there on the field or the court, I am playing for her,” he says.
On November 24, 2002, exactly a week after Thanksgiving, 10-year-old JB experienced a tragedy that few children his age have ever gone through. He had to witness the heart attack and death of his best friend, his hero, his life protector and provider. That night was the night his mom died.
JB felt helpless, hopeless, and like “someone ripped his entire world away from him.” He was scared to go to sleep that night, “because death is forever,” he says. He woke up the next morning and ran into the kitchen, where he always found his mom cooking breakfast for him and his siblings; when she wasn’t there, he sat down on the floor and wept for hours. Her funeral was held that weekend, and the entire day JB described as “feeling cold inside, with a cold presence around him.”
Returning to school the following week, he was welcomed back with apologetic notes from all his classmates. As he sat down at his desk and read them, he began to cry in front of everyone. JB describes that moment as being harder than the actual day of his mother’s death.
“That moment was when I had to face the reality of it,” he says.
That following year he became especially close with his sixth grade teacher; Mrs. Rachel Payne. What once began as someone to talk about football with turned into a companion that took him to all Montgomery High School’s football games as they both watched their brothers play. Rachel’s husband Jason was also JB’s baseball coach that year, up until ninth grade.
During those years, JB lived with his grandma along with his brothers and sister. They were pretty hard up, as he recalls having to get his clothes from places such as YMCA and the Salvation Army. His relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Payne continued to grow close. He would go over to their house and visit them, attend trips with them, and even spend weekends with them. The summer after his eighth grade year, he moved in with Rachel and Jason and they became his legal guardians.
“I tip my hat off to them,” JB says. “They took in a 10-year-old kid they knew nothing about and raised him as their own child because they felt that God wanted them to.”
Today, JB goes to school and works as a cashier at Kroger in addition to helping babysit his three younger sisters and brother also adopted by Rachel and Jason. He is majoring in education so that he can one day become a special education teacher and a high school football coach. Transferring to Sam Houston State University in the fall, he will play as safety and receiver on their football team.
The ultimate driving force and motivation in JB’s life is his past. He has learned to never take life for granted and wants his kids to grow up being able to have what he didn’t. Living with the hope of knowing that he will one day be reunited with his mom in heaven, he strives to live a life that she would be proud of.
By Kellie Pearson
“Any stage I’m on, I own it,” says Kristia Robinson, first year LSCM student and recent graduate of College Park High School.
Thanks to Kristia, LSCM can now boast of having a beauty pageant winner parading around campus. Kristia won First Runner Up in The Woodlands Scholarship Pageant held on April 3. Although this is her fourth year to compete in beauty pageants, it is her first year in Texas.
Kristia moved to The Woodlands two years ago from Chicago, Illinois, where she lived for a year and fell in love with city life. Florida, however, is where she feels most at home since that is where she was born and raised and spent the majority of her life.
She enjoys beauty pageants because she loves being challenged.
“Beauty pageants are not only a confidence booster to help me realize how beautiful I am, but also make me use my brain and get involved with my community,” says Kristia.
Being crowned Little Miss Lake Vista in 2004 in St. Petersburg, Florida is what she considers her favorite pageant memory because it helped her prove to herself that she can win anything with perseverance.
Aside from pageants, another hobby of hers is dancing, particularly the styles of hip hop and modern. Since she was 6, Kristia has been dancing in various studios, and in 2008 she participated in Adlai Stevenson High School’s dance team in Illinois.
“Dancing sets my spirits free,” she says.
Kristia dreams about trying out to become a Houston Rocket’s Power Dancer or a member of a college dance team in the near future.
Shopping, music, and reading are a few other things she takes pleasure in.
“I’m all into the fashion artsy stuff!” she says.
In fact, she is so into it all that she plans to make a career out of it. Kristia is majoring in chemistry to one day create her own line of organic make up for men and women.
On the school side of things, college algebra is her favorite class she is taking this semester because “math is something that [she] grasps easily.”
This year she has been a member of the LSCM leadership club and plans on getting involved as a student ambassador next fall.
“I would love to give back to the world in any future leadership roles I participate in,” she says.
To relax from the craziness and chaos of college, she likes to sit in her hot tub, drink hot tea, and listen to her music. Some of her favorites among her diverse taste in music are Alicia Keys, Rihanna, John Meyer, and Drake.
“I also enjoy listening to hip hop violinists,” Kristia says.
Spending time with her friends and family is also important to her. Currently, Kristia lives with both of her parents and her 14 year old little brother, Hajj Malique.
The relationship Kristia has with her parents is a very close one.
“They are supportive of anything I do,” she says.
Her two heroes in life are her Aunt Patricia Robinson and Tyra Banks.
“My aunt was always independent and lived her life how she wanted to up until she recently passed away on December 31, 2010. Tyra Banks inspires me because I want to someday have my own TV show working with models just like her.”
The best life advice Kristia has received is to “do what makes you happy, but be smart in what you do and how you do it. Don’t settle for less, settle for success.”
Taking a glimpse into Kristia’s life, one can see this advice evident in her goal-driven and determined personality. Living for herself, her family, and future family, she realizes that you can’t look on the negative side of things in life or you will never be happy.
“Make the best of what you are blessed with,” she says.
By Beth Eytcheson
Ali-Zia Din, better known as “Zia”, is an 18 year old unassuming young man who is like every other student on campus except that he lives with a disability. Zia walks with a cane and does so gratefully.
“The last three years have gotten worse and I shouldn’t be walking,” said Zia. However, Zia is not the type to just accept what professionals say, he test drives the theories and so far, he has been successful overcoming limitations.
Zia was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). The disease is diagnosed in stages, Types 1-4, and Zia is Type 3 (really slow progression). SMA is from the same family as multiple sclerosis, so the disease affects the motor neurons and there is no known cure. This means that the muscles which hold his body up and allows him to ambulate are affected. It causes circulatory issues, and muscle cramping occurs faster.
He says that (for biology students) “the recessive gene is on the fifth chromosome,” and he should know; he is in his second semester at LSC-Montgomery studying general science. He is grateful that he is able to do what he can physically so he focuses his attention on his biggest asset, his mind. Bright and articulate, his academic goals are to study psychiatry and become a professor at a major Ivy League university.
Zia gave up a part of childhood and innocence when he was diagnosed; he is aware that he is not like other students. Disability is an invisible wall between him and the world around him and he is not alone in that understanding. He looks at the world differently than other students. He
knows his steps are limited and a day may come where he will have to use a wheelchair to get
While he is usually patient with himself and comes to class a few minutes after others because he moves more slowly, he will tell you, “I don’t want special treatment.” He cherishes the kindnesses of students and faculty who go above and beyond to assist him and says, “it’s not necessary but appreciated.” Internally, he may be frustrated with his immediate circumstances, but he also knows that others have not walked in his shoes. To connect to others, he admittedly uses humor and sarcasm to disarm and endear.
It is also good to know that there is help on LSC-Montgomery campus through Vicky Saunders and Disability Services located in Building E, Student Success Center. Vicky’s office is E-101F and she can be reached at 936-273-7239. Services differ based on disability but Zia has accommodations such as ADA seating, use of the testing center, ability to use a voice recorder for note taking, using a lap top as well as added time between classes.
He hopes that his peers do not take their life for granted. It is his effort to be a wonderful reminder to those around him to slow down and enjoy every step.
By Alberto Roguer-Perez
When someone decides to pursue a higher education, it is because that person has made a new commitment to overcome all obstacles and has embarked on the exciting journey of making a dream come true, in an effort to gain a new purpose in their life. However, the amount of effort varies from one student to another one. Some students take their education lightly, depending on their circumstances, while others put more labor into their education to assure that they can turn their dreams into a reality. These students believe that they are the ones who create their circumstances, and no matter how heavy the work load, everything comes naturally. Indeed, they accomplish their goals in record time. That is the case of Rebbecca Barber. She is an overachiever, a dreamer, and a goal-driven person.
Becca, as she is called at home, has no time to waste, with time management being her number one priority. She was home-schooled all her life along with her two sisters, and by the time she was fifteen, she enrolled at LSC-Montgomery. Now at sixteen, she has almost completed her first two years of college education. Last semester, she took eight courses divided into two sections of four eight-week courses.
“It’s too drowsy when you take long semester classes. It’s way easier if you take them in eight weeks. That way, you can take eight courses per semester instead of four, or even six”, she says.
Determination is also a key ingredient to her success. She does not consider herself a gifted person, but believes that “When you are determined to do something, you will not give up until you see it is done,” and dreams are more likely to become true sooner than later if someone sticks to that belief. In fact, she is looking forward to transferring to the University of Michigan or Cornell University to major in biotechnology. Her goal is to have her PhD completed by the time she is twenty-nine.
She is realistically confident that her goals are achievable, and it seems that she recognizes that right now her number one priority is earning her college degree. Thus, marriage and children will come later. So far, Becca keeps her priority scale weighing toward securing her future professional career, because life is more exiting when we make our dreams come true.
By Kyle Kutter
Photo Courtesy of Priya Thakker
Priya Thakker comes from a traditional Indian family, but this 20-year-old college student is anything but traditional.
Her skin color and name might be the only give-a-ways of her Indian descent.
With parents that choose to hold tight to the Indian customs of arranged marriage and a joint family system, Priya screams her freedom of choice by wearing bright teal eyeshadow, a diamond stud nose piercing, 4-inch black heels and a “not approved” career path.
“To get their attention I have to take it to the extreme,” she said.
After their arranged marriage, Priya’s parents were the first of their family to move from India to America in search for more opportunities. Now, some 20 years later, with several of her uncles and aunts from both sides living within miles of each other, she describes how it feels as if they have moved “part of India” to Spring, Texas.
With one uncle on her dad’s side as the primary bread winner for the entire family, typical of the joint family system in India, she finds herself faced with many questions. Does she fall in line with her Indian family’s traditions and in turn receive a free education, vehicle, and other things, or does she live life according to her own practice and sacrifice those gifts?
The tensions are heavy in certain areas of her life: money, dating, career and marriage. Her first bank account was supposed to be in her uncle's name, so he could monitor her spending. Her current boyfriend is not an Indian and to this day has not eaten a meal with her parent’s or family although they have been together for four years. Weekly she has “discussions” with her parents about her choice to pursue a career in cosmetics. Plus, if she does not marry an Indian man the wedding won’t be paid for by her uncle.
“They are concerned that this American boy is going to corrupt me,” she states, as she recalls a recent conversation with her parents about her 20-year-old, 5’9”, blonde hair, blue-eyed “guy” friend. Divorce is not an option for her Indian family so they hold tight to their Indian traditions.
At the age of 15, Priya’s younger sister, Priyanka, is beginning to face these same questions. “I have been my sister’s voice,” she said. Four years younger, Priyanka has seen the battle of love that Priya has had with her parents. Like a modern-day pilgrim, Priya has the choice to leave her home that she loves, but hates, to venture out to the new land where freedoms lie.
A sterling silver necklace with the big letters MAC, the cosmetics company she has been working with for two years, hangs from her neck as a proclamation of her choice of the new land. Even in a college classroom where she studies Mass Communications in PR, a career choice her parents and providing uncle does not approve of, she is very vocal about how she feels about her choice.
“They want me to do what is safe and not take any chances,” she said.
So many of the choices Priya’s parents push onto her just clarify her feeling that her parents’ Indian traditions are so different from a normal American family in the 21st century.
Priya summarizes the tension with her parents by saying, “We (she and her parents) have to be able to find a compromise while still being my own person at the same time.”
By Lauren Maddox, LSC-Montgomery College Relations
Moving forward from spending her vital teenage years under foster care wasn’t something that came easily for Crystal Lovelady, a recent graduate of Lone Star College-Montgomery. But after shrugging off the past, reclaiming her future, and making the most of her two years at LSC-Montgomery, Lovelady is now on her way to a lifetime of success.
Photo by Mallory Sherman
After graduating this May from Lone Star College-Montgomery, Crystal Lovelady recently began her first semester at Columbia University with the assistance of a full academic scholarship.
“I’ve had numerous setbacks both in my personal and educational life, but I’ve resolved to live my life as a testament to perseverance,” said Lovelady. “It really is never too late to start over and move forward.”
After graduating from LSC-Montgomery this May with her associate’s degree, Lovelady is ‘moving forward’ this fall at Columbia University with the assistance of a full academic scholarship. Lovelady is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern studies.
“At LSC-Montgomery, I had professors who encouraged me, guided me, and really asked ‘what’s the worst that can happen in applying?’” said Lovelady. “I thought I’d get an apologetic ‘no’ letter, but I ended up receiving a personal phone call with my acceptance offer, which included the scholarship.”
Nominated to the Program for Academic Leadership and Service (PALS), a group deemed worthy for only five new Columbia students this academic year, Lovelady received a tuition scholarship funded by the Juan Jacobo de Lara and Jonne Low de Lara Foundation.
“A degree from Columbia is very costly, and without the scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to attend,” said Lovelady. “The only family member I am close to is my grandmother, and while she wants me to succeed, she couldn’t afford to help with tuition.”
In addition to academics, Lovelady will complete 30 hours of leadership and service per year for the PALS program, mentoring with Columbia Community Outreach and No Limits, a conference for high school students focused on overcoming hardship to receive a quality education.
While initially awe-struck by the beauty of the campus, Lovelady is now settled in to her new life in New York City. She works hard every single day, sometimes spending up to six hours each evening on homework.
“At LSC-Montgomery, I learned about dedication, and I knew from the start of the semester that I would have no time to watch television, go out into the city, or see my friends,” said Lovelady. “It’s not easy to do well at Columbia, but I have goals to reach. I can experience New York City later—when I don’t have midterms approaching.”
Aiming High in Higher Education
Lovelady learned the importance of education while living in the foster care system in Alabama. Due to frequent relocation, she attended five different high schools in just two years.
“My parents were just not financially and personally responsible enough to care for me,” said Lovelady. “When I was 17, my grandmother received custody of me. Being in a more stable environment with her in Georgia, helped me complete my GED, find a full-time job, and start taking college courses at a local community college.”
In 2006, after prompting from a family member, Lovelady moved to Texas with the sole goal of attending LSC-Montgomery. Her aunt, Nina Bergeron, a former LSC-Montgomery student, felt the campus would offer Lovelady a better college experience.
“Going to LSC-Montgomery was the best decision I’ve ever made,” said Lovelady. “In addition to the educational guidance I received, I met so many incredible Texans! I truly learned about kindness and giving while at the campus.”
From day one, Lovelady set high educational goals and became very involved on campus.
“Without much of a secondary education, I knew that if I was ever going to be successful in higher education, I would need to be involved and take leadership roles at LSC-Montgomery,” said Lovelady. “So I did.”
While at LSC-Montgomery, Lovelady served as an officer for Beta Delta Iota, the college’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. She received three awards during her service including induction into the Hallmark of Honor in Texas. She also served as president of the Environmentally Conscious Organization of Students and was recognized as an Outstanding Student Leader.
Outside of club activities, she participated in the National Model United Nations conference, where her group was awarded the second highest honor of Distinguished Delegation.
“I did struggle with some classes, especially math, since my high school experience didn’t prepare me well for college math, but I had incredible professors help me,” said Lovelady. “I also received a billion opportunities to get involved on campus, so the extra time in remedial math courses was still incredibly rewarding.”
Setting Her Sites on Service
Photo courtesy of Crystal-Lovelady
Crystal Lovelady, former Lone Star College-Montgomery student, stands in front of Butler Library, the largest library in the Columbia University system. Lovelady received a full academic scholarship to Columbia after graduating this May from LSC-Montgomery.
Opening up about her past as a foster child has been “therapeutic” for Lovelady, who just in the past year has begun sharing her story publically.
“I was nervous to do that, but there was a woman that heard my first speech who told me I had inspired her to look into becoming a foster parent for other teenagers,” said Lovelady. “That alone makes sharing my story worth it.”
Looking to her future, Lovelady is excited about the opportunities to come and because of where she now stands, feels strongly compelled to give back to others.
“I don’t want to be a politician; I don’t want to be a successful business woman,” said Lovelady. “I want to serve the world, always learning and experiencing new things as I go.”
Ultimately, Lovelady plans to pursue a graduate degree in international relations.
“Five years ago, I couldn’t see my life past age 18,” she added. “But now that I’ve had years of rewarding college and employment experience, I refuse to be defined as another student that ‘could’ve been.’”
By Lauren Maddox, LSC-Montgomery College Relations
In the 1990’s, while employed as an industrial engineer, Terri Washburn, a graduate of Lone Star College-Montgomery, did not foresee that in just a few years, she would become a small business owner focused on tax planning and preparing individual income tax returns.
But an unexpected detour led Washburn and her husband back to their home state of Georgia, where Washburn spent a year working in an Atlanta tax office. This move sparked her interest in business, eventually led her to complete an associate of applied science degree from LSC-Montgomery, and ultimately guided her to become a licensed certified public accountant (CPA).
“I completely changed career fields,” said Washburn. “I’ve learned that I really like accountancy and helping people navigate the tax world successfully.”
Setting Out on a New Path
In 2001, Washburn and her husband transferred back to Houston, where she returned to work in the engineering field. But her interest in making the leap from the engineering sector to the business world never waned, so she applied for and was accepted into two graduate school programs.
“I was working full time and needed to take some prep courses, so I enrolled in a few basic accounting classes,” explained Washburn. “The courses offered through LSC-Montgomery were reasonably priced, but still very high quality.”
As Washburn worked toward her graduate degree, she learned that LSC-Montgomery was in the process of developing an advanced technical certificate in accounting, wherein the coursework she was taking would serve as qualifying education credit by the state board is she wanted to sit for the CPA licensing exam.
In 2004, LSC-Montgomery gained approval from the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy, and Washburn became one of the first students to enroll in the certificate program while concurrently completing her two-year degree.
“After learning about the opportunity to become a licensed CPA, I began to reconsider my career options,” she said. “The graduate degree lost some of its appeal once I realized what I could do with the license.”
Excited about the possibility of becoming a full-time accountant, Washburn set aside her goal of a graduate degree and focused on completing her accounting coursework. In 2003, she earned an accounting certificate; in 2004, she earned an associate of applied science degree in accounting; and then in 2005, she began earning advanced credits to sit for the four-part CPA exam. Then, in 2007, Washburn received her CPA license.
Her Success Becomes a Role Model for Others
According to Pat Sendelbach, accounting department chair at LSC-Montgomery and a licensed CPA, the accounting field is very diverse, and the skills are in high-demand.
“Its not unusual for students to enroll with the intent of learning some basic accounting, but then end up pursuing a degree,” said Sendelbach. “But sitting for the CPA exam is a must for anyone who wants to work in the field of public accounting; and even those wanting to pursue a career in a company that is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission will find the license helpful as they advance in their career.”
Sendelbach also explained that, for those who already hold a bachelor’s degree, the technical certificate is a great option, as it consists of the 30 advanced accounting hours needed to take the CPA licensure exam.
“Washburn is typical of the type of student who enrolls in our accounting courses,” said Becky Gustamante, academic dean at LSC-Montgomery. “She is goal-oriented, self-motivated, and willing to do the work required to be successful in both the program and in the field.”
“She’s also been a great role model for her colleagues, several of whom have followed in her footsteps,” added Gustamante, referring to LSC-Montgomery student April Ames. Ames passed the exam in December 2009 after taking evening and online courses, working full-time, and raising children.
“The program really caters to non-traditional students,” says Ames who, like Washburn, held a bachelor’s degree before enrolling at LSC-Montgomery to complete coursework needed to sit for the CPA exam.
“The program fills a need in our community,” said Washburn of her own experience and that of her former colleagues. “It spurs success for people who want to advance or who, as I did, want to move in another direction.”
A Career She Enjoys and Believes In
Terri Washburn, a CPA based in The Woodlands and former Lone Star College-Montgomery accounting student, found a rewarding new career in helping people with tax planning and tax preparation.
Washburn made the final move from the corporate world when an opportunity arose that she felt she could not pass by.
“I met an accounting firm owner who was interested in bringing in someone else to share the workload and possibly, take over the business,” she said. “I was ready for more work-life balance and client interaction, so this opportunity was exciting for me.”
Through that experience, she realized she was more interested in working with individuals than with the corporate, estate, and trust accounts, which were a large part of the company’s client base. She also realized she wanted more time for her volunteer work within the community.
Grateful to have been given the opportunity, but committed to her vision, it wasn’t long before Washburn decided to strike out on her own.
“I didn’t start off wanting to own my own business so quickly, but it’s been a great move for me,” said Washburn. “I am working with great clients and filling a need, while also living my values. Now I have both the time and skills to give back to the community in a way that I haven’t been able to do before.”
With her Woodlands-based business up and running, Washburn has expanded her volunteer work to include leading Generation Change, a class on budgeting for the youth in her church.
“My husband and I paid off our first home in 1998, so we strive to live according to sound financial principles,” she explained. “With my education and my experience as a business owner, I feel like I have the background to teach young people how to apply these principles in their own lives.”
With her volunteer work and her career now in full swing, Washburn holds a fairly simple and straightforward vision for her future.
“I want to continue to build my practice and serve as a mentor to others,” she said. “I want to continue to use my skills to give back to others, while earning a living doing something that I enjoy and believe in.”
For more information about the accounting program at LSC-Montgomery, visit the LSC-Montgomery Accounting Department page
By Lauren Maddox, LSC-Montgomery College Relations
The first—and only—female student in Lone Star College-Montgomery’s fire science academy, Kari Willis, has climbed her way to the top of the ladder, and on Friday, May 21, she graduated from the academy ranked in the top 10 percent of the more than 40 fire science and emergency medical services students graduating. It’s quite an accomplishment for the 5-foot, 4-inch, no-nonsense woman from Magnolia.
“When I came into the academy, I knew that I wouldn’t necessarily be the strongest,” said the 26-year-old. “So, I said I was going to be valedictorian.”
Working toward her goal, Willis made straight A’s throughout the entire year and finished within the top four students. While extremely proud of her accomplishment, Willis credits good old-fashioned hard work and studying for her academic success.
“The physical work is sometimes a challenge for me, but the book work is not,” she said. “It just makes sense to me.”
Willis set the spark to her firefighting career when she entered the academy in August of 2009. To her, being a female student in a primarily male-dominated program is nothing extraordinary.
“Both of my parents are in law enforcement, so growing up I was surrounded by both male and female police officers and firefighters,” explained Willis. “My mother participated for two years with the police and firefighter Olympics, so I never saw it as being a big deal.”
“And none of the guys I’ve worked with or in my class have even cared,” she added. “Usually it’s people outside the service who comment or see it as an issue.”
According to Keith Campbell, director of the fire science program at LSC-Montgomery, having a female such as Willis in the program is extraordinary and is something that has made a huge, positive impact on the academy.
“It’s our hope that her influence will create an interest for other women to join the fire service, which includes emergency medicine, as well,” he said. “She is a true professional and an absolute inspiration for everyone that works around her.”
In May of 2009, Willis became certified as an EMT-Intermediate, so upon joining the academy, Willis had the opportunity to intern with The Woodlands Fire Department while her fellow classmates were working on the EMT-Basic portion of the course. During that internship, she worked with certified firefighters doing daily chores, completing apparatus maintenance, and observing protocol on emergency calls.
“I got to see what working for a department was really like,” said Willis. “It also gave me a interesting insight into the new recruits, which is what I’ll be soon. I learned what the new recruits do that can irritate the firefighters—and I definitely don’t want to irritate them when I’m a new recruit!”
Throughout the past year, Willis has managed to balance earning good grades in the academy with maintaining her part-time evening and weekend job as a hair stylist.
“It’s funny because I’m primarily with males all day long, and then I totally switch gears and am with females at work all night,” said Willis.
With physical training accounting for a large portion of the course, Willis had to work hard both in and out of the classroom to maintain her success.
“Some days, I walked into work so tired from the physical training,” she said. “My coworkers ask me ‘What’s wrong?’ and I just shake my head and tell them they wouldn’t even understand.”
Campbell is proud of Willis’ success both physically and academically.
“Kari outscored almost every other student in every aspect of the course, and physically, she unabashedly gave everything she had on every task,” said Campbell. “I just hope the program can get more women like her!”
The graduation ceremony for the LSC-Montgomery fire science and emergency medical services programs was on Friday, May 21, at 7 p.m., in the theatre (Bldg. D).
The fire science academy at LSC-Montgomery trains students to become certified by the Texas Commission on Fire Protection as firefighters. Both daytime and evening classes are available. The academy class of 2010-11 begins Tuesday, August 31; however applications for enrollment in the program are currently being accepted.
Classes for the fire science and emergency medical services programs are taught at The Woodlands Emergency Training Center, located off the Interstate 45 feeder road between Texas 242 and FM 1488. This 13-acre site includes a state-of-the art training center, a five-story live burn tower and 60,000 square feet of pavement to practice maneuvers.
By Lauren Maddox, LSC-Montgomery College Relations
A Horse-Lover’s Quest to Save an Entire Organization
Photo by Dru Harper PhotoGraphics
“Tell me it cannot be done and I will do it. Tell me the goal is too high and I will reach it. Place an obstacle in front of me and I will leap over it…”
Those words are placed along the bottom of every e-mail Kaitlyn Beauregard sends.
“I love that saying because it shows my passion for living a goal-driven, well-defined life,” said Beauregard, a busy second-year student at Lone Star College-Montgomery. “There is a lot going on in my life, but I love it and wouldn’t change a thing.”
A lot, indeed. To start, she balances a full-time education at LSC-Montgomery with a full-time job that requires her to be on-call 24 hours a day. She’s deeply involved with her church where she serves on the activities committee. She has a side job as a photographer, three younger sisters to mentor, and yes, an astounding 3.7 G.P.A to maintain.
But that’s just half the story. Over the past year, this successful young woman has invested heart and soul into LSC-Montgomery’s chapter of the international honor society, Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), somewhat single-handedly shifting it from a dormant group to a successful organization that now boasts more than 200 members and is the fourth largest PTK chapter in Texas.
“PTK is my baby,” said Beauregard, who currently serves as chapter president. “The chapter was in desperate need of help when I became president last spring, but with the support of many, we’ve become an involved, thriving chapter.”
What a Difference a Year Can Make
Now, with a strong membership, PTK-Beta Delta Iota chapter has become a driving force for students on campus by providing the opportunity for leadership, service and academic excellence. The group has flourished and become active in the international realm. In fact, this month, the nine chapter officers had the opportunity to attend the PTK international convention in Orlando, FL., where according to Beauregard, more than 500 chapters and 3,600 students were in attendance.
At the conference, the students heard from keynote speakers Dr. Rachel Maddow, MSNBC political analyst, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN chief medical correspondent, as well as other notable speakers and educational leaders. Beauregard said the officers would implement what they learned from the conference into chapter activities to strengthen the organization’s leadership and ultimately, help the members.
“We started with nothing as a group,” said Beauregard. “Now, one year later, we received the support needed to make it to the international conference. We know what we have accomplished and how far we have gone. Going to the conference was an amazing award to ourselves, and no one can take that away.”
An Empty Room Offers an Open Door
It was an experience well deserved for Beauregard and her fellow officers who came together as a team last year. After seeing “just one, tiny flyer,” Beauregard showed up for her first PTK meeting in spring of 2009 to a mostly empty room.
“I immediately saw they needed help,” she said. “There were just two people there—besides the three current officers and the advisor, Michael Hickey.”
At that meeting, Beauregard assumed the position of officer of fellowship. Within a few weeks, however, she received an e-mail from Hickey asking her to consider the role of chapter president for the 2009-10 school year.
“We quickly saw that she could take PTK to the next level,” said Hickey. “She is a hard worker and has a lot of great ideas.”
Beauregard accepted the challenge.
“He saw my ambition and drive, and I gladly—but nervously—accepted,” said Beauregard. “I began researching the organization online and attended PTK’s annual conference in Grapevine, TX, by myself.”
While at that conference, Beauregard said fate brought her into the path of another PTK chapter from Florida who took her “under their wings,” counseling her, sharing their goals and programs, and molding her into a strong, informed campus leader.
“My eyes were opened to what the program could offer students on campus,” said Beauregard. “I give our success to them. They made a difference in my life and our entire chapter.”
Leadership is as Easy as 1-2-3
As the stable manager for Foxcroft Farm, a local riding, boarding, breeding and training facility for horses, Beauregard has had over two years experience as a full-time, on-call business manager. So when it came time for her to lead the entire PTK-Beta Delta Iota chapter, she approached it from a business perspective and set into place a three-step business plan to success: recruitment, activation, and service.
“My first goal as president was to get our name out there,” she said. “No one knew who we were or what we were about—they simply thought we were a fraternity or sorority.”
The club worked to advertise the benefits of membership and recruit members who were dedicated to the four hallmarks of the organization: scholarship, fellowship, leadership, and service. Beauregard also established a well-rounded team of officers, and by the end of the 2009 fall semester, the organization had over 100 new members.
The next step in Beauregard’s plan was to get the members active on campus and help them reach their full potential as members. Again, the officers were successful.
Over the fall and spring semesters, PTK has volunteered at almost every LSC-Montgomery event, worked with Habitat for Humanity once a month, and hosted special educational seminars, fellowship events, and scholarship information meetings. This is in addition to its regular monthly meetings.
“We want to be known around campus as ambitious and dedicated students who are involved and supportive of the college,” Beauregard said. “We went from no participation at all to being active campus-wide.”
Last on Beauregard’s plan is to extend the chapter’s reach out into the community.
“We want to see the organization become involved with our representatives and senators, our community organizations, and our community events,” said Beauregard. “We want to promote personal growth, education, and the all-around well-being of ourselves both on-and off-campus.”
“We have a long way to go, but we’re making huge progress.”
Riding Off Into the Sunset of Success
Nine officers and an advisor from LSC-Montgomery’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa honor society recently had the opportunity to attend the international conference in Orlando, FL.
Due to her achievements on campus—both in and out of the classroom, Beauregard was selected as the student speaker at the 2010 LSC-Montgomery Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 14, at 6 p.m., at The Woodlands Church-Fellowship Campus.
“I’m so excited about this opportunity,” said Beauregard. “I want to talk about my experiences here on campus and with PTK, but not in a way that showcases me. I want to share how my experiences can lead to other’s opportunities when they leave this campus.”
Beauregard, a self-proclaimed horse-lover, credits her years of experience with horses for her hard work ethic and leadership skills. In fact, the quote along the bottom of every e-mail she sends finishes with: “Challenge me, dare me, or even defy me, but do not underestimate me. For on the back of my horse, anything is Possible.”
“I have worked with horses all my life and learned valuable lessons such as patience, persistence, accountability, and the importance of a strong work ethic,” she added. “Achieving your goals can be difficult and stressful at times, but by sticking to it and doing your best, you will move forward. And seeing the progress—whether with a horse or an entire PTK chapter—is a wonderful reward.”