Monday, November 30, 2015

This I Believe--BrieAnn

            If there is one thing that I believe to be true it is that family should be the most important aspect in your life, aside from religious beliefs.
I have found that a family person has always seemed to be happier with life, or maybe they just seemed to enjoy it a little more. Your family will always be there to support you and have your back when nobody else does. If everyone held their families close to them and every family was close, then I feel like people would be happier with their life. Sure there would probably still be “family drama” and such, but it probably would not be as bad as if families were not close.
Your family should be the people that you can always count on and call up anytime you are in need. To me family is not always who you are “blood kin” to either, family can mean many different things; I consider my really close and true friends to be apart of my family.
The older I get the more I realize that family really is forever. The worse this world gets the more I begin to tell myself that you should hold your loved ones close, even closer than ever before. The love that your family has for you, is a love that you can not get from anyone nor any other thing in this world; it is one of a kind.
When my grandparents were growing up the world was a whole different place, which of course it was right? Because things are always changing and nothing stays the same. My grandparents talk about their family and how it was growing up, and I just think “man I wish I had that, I wish things were how they use to be.” Of course I am close to my “immediate family” as we call it, but half of my family I barely even know if I know them at all which to me, is sad.

I just believe that newer generations should make a difference, change the way things have become, make sure your kids know their family, make sure it is close. At least try your best to.

This I Believe--KJ

      In my 18 years of experience in life, I’ve come to realize that it’s all in the music. Now I know, that probably doesn’t make sense right now, but it will in the end. Every step you take makes a sound, and those steps take you on a journey. Your steps are in rhythm, just like the beat of a drum. The ambiance of your breath, the reverb of your voice, all come together to make the song of life. Not just life in general, but your life, one that will never be duplicated, it’s as if you have your own personal copyrights.
            Just like your every step makes a sound, your every decision sends out a sound wave into the universe. Just like your voice echoes off into the distance, causing the action of hearing to happen within another’s ears, the same thing happens with the choices we make in life. There is always somebody who looks up to you and watches your every mood. May it be a younger cousin, baby brother, or sister, or maybe just a kid in your community? They see the things you do and try to imitate. Therefore if all you do is send off waves of negative behavior, that’s what they will pick up. Some of us just don’t know how influential we are.
            If you were a rapper, or a singer, would you spend all of your time trying to promote a song that was terrible, or one that could be one of the world’s greatest hits? You see, I actually do music, and I’ve come to realize that it’s not always about who you are and what you do, but about the sound or quality of the music. This holds to be true in life. You may not come from a 2 parent home, had the best grades in school, or have been the most popular, but you can still turn out to be someone. Some of the world’s greatest music have been stories of struggle, and so have some of the world’s greatest people.

            So no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, if you let God pattern your steps to a steady rhythm, let the ambiance of your breath, and the reverb of your voice come together in perfect harmony. You can compose one of the greatest songs of all time.

This I Believe--BriAnna

Second Chances Are Just As Important As the First Ones
I believe that second chances are just as important as the first ones. For as long as I can remember, I have had a soft heart for other people and their mistakes. Forgiveness is something that has always come natural for me, and while others may see it as a weakness, I believe that my own second chances have only made me a stronger, better person. So why not give others the same opportunities?
Mistakes are part of being human and sometimes I think we need to be reminded that we are all human, no one above another. Somethings take longer to forgive, and some second chances take longer to earn, but everyone deserves a second chance. While we all differ in various ways, one need we all have is the need for forgiveness. There’s not one person who can say they’ve never needed a second chance at something, a chance to be better or a chance to fix something broken. People are dishonest, self- centered, and at times maybe even cruel, but we are supposed to love them anyways.

Forgiveness means experience, moving forward, and love. I believe that second chances are the answer for many of everyone’s problems. We’re all so stuck to holding on to hurt and bitterness that we ourselves start to need the forgiveness just as much as the person who’s done wrong to us. Forgiveness is not “condoning” or “excusing” the mistakes someone has made, it is acknowledging that someone else has hurt you, or done wrong and choosing to do right by them instead of creating a pattern of hurt.   Second chances make better people, and I believe that second chances are just are important as the first ones. 

Fall 2015

The fall semester is coming to an end, and once again, I've had the opportunity to work with a great group of Honors students.  Throughout the semester, the students in Honors Seminar have been reading essays from This I Believe.  One of their final assignments was to write their own essay about what they believe about life.  I'll share those as they submit them!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Graduation at last!

As I reflect over the first two years of the SAU Tech Honors Program, I feel such mixed emotions. The first group of Honors Scholars graduated on May 7, 2015.  In some ways, it feels like it has a been a marathon, and in others, it feels like a sprint.    This journey feels like a sprint because it seems I just met these students at SOAR during summer 2013. They quickly became part of my family.

The marathon has been exhausting at times for both the students and myself.  I have walked this journey with them as they have experienced both successes and struggles.  This group of students has had so much happen in their lives outside of the classroom (relationship issues, babies born and babies lost, moving to new homes, financial struggles, jobs, marriages, losses of loved ones, and more).  And in spite of all that has happened in life, they have overcome. As they walked across the stage at graduation, I was so humbled to think of how they have impacted my life over this 2 years.

Jessica Flannigan has represented SAU Tech well as the Academic All-Star for this year and as a Student Ambassador for SAU Tech.  
Jessica Flannigan

Ms. Johnnie Sue Hall and Taylor Watkins
Taylor Watkins is truly a success story for students taking concurrent credits during high school.  She has finished her associate's degree in ONE year after high school!

Jenny Sanders (Honors Sponsor) and Taylor Watkins

Keyonte Akis-Davis is always the life of the party.  That smile never seems to fade.  During his time as a student in the Honors Program, Keyonte tore his ACL.  And during his recovery, he was STILL smiling. I wish the rest of the world was as kind and smiling at Keyonte!

Tiffany Jamerson and Keyonte Akis-Davis
I had the privilege of presenting Tiffany with her Technical Certificate.
Tiffany Jamerson has demonstrated the true meaning of "overcomer" over the last 2 years. In spite of being in foster care off and on throughout her life, she has persevered and worked toward her degree.  Nothing will stop this young lady from reaching her goals!

NaCenya Hogan
 NaCenya Hogan has reached the first of many goals by finishing her associate's degree. The day of graduation, she posted the following on Facebook:  "First degree... Many more to come..."  

 Jessica Crumpler has shown what true determination and commitment looks like.  She has managed to raise an energetic little boy, maintained a household, worked a lot, and finished her first college degree with excellent grades.  Despite lots of sleepless nights, she has kept going!

And, of course, what kind of celebration could we have without food!  So, we met up at What's Cookin' in Camden the night after graduation.  Family and friends were welcome for a time of fellowship, reminiscing, and fun.

We love it when the youngest members of the Honors Program join us for fun!

We all need a little support from our family and friends, so this celebration was about the parents, spouses, kids, and significant others who have supported these students over the last few years.

Classic facial expressions from a few

 We had to get one last group picture before everyone goes their separate ways this summer!

These students have paved the way for those coming behind them.  While graduation is bittersweet because I'm not ready for them to move on, I am so excited to see where this group will go and what they will accomplish.  Since this group is small, we have formed lasting friendships that are more like being a part of a family.  I feel blessed to be the group "Momma!"  I could not be more proud of them!

Honors Scholars:  My challenge to you is:
1.  To never "finish" learning.  Always strive to learn something new each day, whether in the classroom, on the job, in the home, or out in the world.
2.  Continue to make this world a better place.  You see, the future is yours and is in your hands.
3.  Remember where you came from and what you have overcome.  But, do more than remember.  Use that to propel you to greatness!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Festival of Stars

Honors students enrolled in the fall 2014 Honors Seminar class chose the Arkansas Children's Hospital "Festival of Stars" as their service project.  "Festival of Stars" is a toy drive that enables parents to "shop" for their child who is hospitalized at Christmas.  There is a personal connection for many of the Honors students to ACH, so this was a project they took to heart.  Throughout the semester, the students accepted donations of toys and cash.  On December 12, the students who were able took a trip to ACH to deliver toys.  On the way, we stopped at Walmart in Sheridan to purchase additional toys with the funds that had been raised.  The students worked hard at making their money go as far as possible while still staying within budget and choosing items from the list supplied by ACH.

There was quite a bit to unload and deliver!

Anna Dunn (and Addi), Nicole Boer, Marcus Copeland, Jessica Flannigan, Talon Gray, Holli Brown
After unloading and placing the items in the donation bin, we were invited in for hot chocolate and a time to visit.

Then, we ate lunch together at the Purple Cow.  As usual, Anna's daughter, Addi, was the star of the show!  She finally warmed up to Marcus during lunch!

In recognition of the donations, the Honors Program received a nice certificate from Arkansas Children's Hospital.  More information is available on the "Festival of Stars" on the Arkansas Children's Hospital website.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Defining Moments--J. Keller

         Of the few defining moments in my life, two come to my mind prominently; my father and mother’s marriage and my adoption into the Keller household. Defining moments often shape who we are, our future, and how we respond to events further on down the road of life.  There are both good and bad moments, producing positive and negative results, but what you do with those results is up to you.  You can either choose to learn from the negative, or allow it to rend you limb from limb.  Positive events almost always produce positive results, but you can allow even those to infect your brain with a sort of mightier-than-thou attitude.  To be blunt, defining moments are our story; let it shape you into who you are meant to be.
                When my parents first met, I was being babysat by my grandmother, but I’m sure their first meeting went great.  They are married after all.  I was a tender three when it happened, and having lived a life with a hard-working mother and father who was never around, knew nothing about a happy normal home.  To be correct, I knew nothing about a happy home; separation among parents is normal.  Although I was young, I remember holding my mother’s hand as she walked, and watching as tears of joy ran down her face.  Up until that point, I had been the only man who had ever consistently been there for her; I didn’t have a choice in the matter, but I would have stayed even if I had.  However now I was able to see what love and sacrifice were really about.  My father took my mother and I in, even with her tattered past and my abandonment from my “sperm donor dad”.  This was love, and sacrifice at its purest.  Something I still haven’t forgotten.
                Secondly came my adoption, and that almost seven years later.  How I would love to tell you of a perfect life, but those aren’t real or true, and frankly quite boring.  My parents fought like any other, I bowed my head to anger often, and hated the air that often clogged our home.  Yet, my parents pushed through, and I believe that it was a small defining moments in itself.  When I was ten my parents approached me with talk of adoption, in fact I was the only member or the then household of five to still have the name Rice.  Keller, I thought, was better because everyone else had it.  My mother hadn’t let the conversation happen until I was ten, as she feared things between her and my soon to be adopted dad may not work out.  Thankfully she was wrong, and today I proudly hold the title Keller.  This moment exuded love, and the tears that ran down my face in genuine bliss after the process had finally been completed couldn’t have been truer.  I knew then that this man, who had married my mother, wouldn’t leave me like my other father.  But instead would stand by my side, and teach my things every man needs to know.

                These seemingly insignificant examples of defining moments changed my life, for the better a thousand times over.  Up until then I had received multiple negative ones, and I still have work to do on my heart from the scars in my past.  However the blessings of those two defining moments have changed my forever.  I am a man because of those two events, because without them, I wouldn’t have a father; without a father, who can learn to be a man?