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Stratton’s “Flock Life” is Senior Exhibit

Stratton’s “Flock Life” is Senior Exhibit

University of the Ozarks senior art major Willow Stratton of Fayetteville, Ark., will showcase her Senior Art Exhibit, titled, “Flock Life,” from Nov. 18-23 in the Stephens Gallery.

Willow, who is minoring in education and psychology, will present an artist talk at 3 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 15, in Baldor Auditorium. There will be a reception to meet the artist at 5 p.m. on Nov. 23 in the gallery, which is located in the Walton Fine Arts Center.

In her exhibit, “Flock Life,” Stratton honors her life-long attraction to birds.

“Most of my childhood was spent watching the birds and wishing for the ability to fly,” she said. “Now, birds are the main focus of the works due to my natural draw towards them. Each bird that I depict has a meaning, some from Celtic, European and Native American cultures. In each culture, items have different significance, occasionally sharing similar symbols. The cultures and symbols I am inspired by connect to my family lineage, making the works more personal to me.”

Stratton said each bird in her artwork represents a person in her life.

Wilow Stratton artwork“For example, the hummingbird represents my mother,” she said. “A hummingbird symbolizes endless insight and wisdom, and it seeks out the good and beauty in life. My mother, to me, has endless knowledge about the world and she is always the person I reach out to for problems. In addition to the bird totems, the drawings include items that represent each person, whether it is something they like or something in their possession. Each symbol and bird is researched and noted so that the imagery will represent the person before I start the piece.”

Stratton said that in Native American culture, the yellow cactus flower represents motherhood and unconditional love. 

“The Native Americans described the yellow flower as symbolizing patience and endurance,” she said. “My mother forever acts maternal towards me; taking care of me when I am sick or giving me motherly advice. The hummingbird and flower together represents her infinite patience and love for her children, resulting in its name, ‘Infinite Infinity.’ After the imagery is determined, sketches are created to plan a layout that includes their personality through cultural symbols and objects.  Colored pencils are used to form the bird while an array of mixed media are used to create the background.  The bird is drawn separately and then meticulously cut out and attached to the background. Other pieces are cut out and collaged in.”

Stratton said that not all of her artworks in “Flock Life” represent a positive relationship.

“One of the pieces, ‘You Ran Over Me,’ presents a dead owl, symbolizing the destruction this person caused on my life and self-esteem,” she said. “The background embodies the feeling of slowly being consumed by the feeling of dread and hopelessness, which ended up being a healing experience. The pieces will represent the positive and negative relationships in my life, some past and some present.”

Dr. Allison Freed, assistant professor of education/science education, has been appointed director of the Pat Walker Teacher Education Program, University of the Ozarks officials announced this week.

The promotion is effective immediately for Freed, who has taught at Ozarks since 2015.

“It’s an honor to be named the director of teacher education,” Freed said. “Moving forward, our department will continue our collaborative efforts to provide comprehensive teacher education for Ozarks students. My hope is to continue to support the strengths of the program while also working to meet the needs of our future teachers in an ever-changing world.”

A native of Michigan, Freed earned her Ph.D. in educational psychology and educational technology from Michigan State University. She has taught school in rural Michigan, London and Chicago, completed a fellowship in Botswana, been a wilderness trip leader in Wyoming, and served as a study abroad program leader in The Netherlands, France and Germany.     

“I am delighted that Dr. Freed has stepped into this role at the University and look forward to seeing how the Pat Walker Teacher Education Program moves forward under her leadership,” said University Provost Dr. Alyson Gill. 

Freed published two pieces of research and will or has presented at two international conferences this year. The first publication, The Journal of Sustainability Education, examines the relationship between university students’ environmental identity, decision-making process, and behavior. She also published a book chapter in Pedagogies and Pedagogical Challenges.  Her presentations this year are at the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) and the Council for International Education Exchange (CIEE) conferences.

Freed also serves as the advisor of the Ozarks Student Education Association and the Planet Club.

The University of the Ozarks’ Pat Walker Teacher Education Program has been granted accreditation by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) through 2024.

U of O’s program was granted accreditation at the initial-licensure level and was one of 42 providers (colleges and universities) from 23 states and the District of Columbia that earned accreditation from CAEP during its spring review for their educator preparation programs (EPPs). These providers join 196 previously accredited providers in promoting excellence in educator preparation, bringing the total of CAEP-accredited EPPs to 238.

Created by the consolidation of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, CAEP is the single specialized accreditor for educator preparation in the United States.

Dr. Brett Stone, dean of the education program, said, “I am extremely proud of the education faculty and staff for their steadfast commitment to making our program, students and curriculum the best it can be.  The accreditation process is certainly challenging, but is critical for maintaining a quality program that produces competent teachers for the state of Arkansas.”

Stone also credited area school partners as well as other Ozarks faculty members for the success of the education program.

“I am certainly grateful for the support and participation from our program partners, particularly for their necessary role in helping us produce quality teachers,” he said. “I would like to specifically credit the U of O faculty, our cooperating classroom teachers and the administrators from area school districts for their involvement throughout this process.”

The CAEP Accreditation Council held its spring 2019 review in May, during which 42 providers were approved under the rigorous, nationally recognized CAEP Teacher Preparation Standards.

“These providers meet high standards so that their students receive an education that prepares them to succeed in a diverse range of classrooms after they graduate,” said CAEP President Dr. Christopher A. Koch. “Seeking CAEP accreditation is a significant commitment on the part of an educator preparation provider.”

CAEP is the sole nationally-recognized accrediting body for educator preparation. Accreditation is a nongovernmental activity based on peer review that serves the dual functions of assuring quality and promoting improvement. Approximately 800 educator preparation providers participate in the CAEP Accreditation system, including some previously accredited through former standards.

Educator preparation providers seeking accreditation must pass peer review on five standards, which are based on two principles:

  1. Solid evidence that the provider’s graduates are competent and caring educators, and
  2. Solid evidence that the provider’s educator staff have the capacity to create a culture of evidence and use it to maintain and enhance the quality of the professional programs they offer.

If a program fails to meet one of the five standards, it is placed on probation for two years. Probation may be lifted in two years if a program provides evidence that it meets the standard.

The impact that University of the Ozarks senior Shelby Carlton made on her students during her teaching internship at Lamar Elementary School this past year was quite obvious on her final day in the class.

Shelby Carlton

As Carlton was about to leave Beth Mayes’ second-grade classroom for the final time, she was quickly enveloped by a large number of children in a farewell group hug. It was a moving culmination of a rewarding and educational year-long internship for the elementary education major from Clarksville who graduate with honors in May.

While most teacher education programs require just one semester in the classroom for education majors, the Pat Walker Teacher Education program at Ozarks requires a full year, something that Carlton believes makes a big difference in preparing future teachers.

“Being in the classroom all year long has been so helpful to me,” Carlton said. “I was able to see how crazy a first day of school can be, but I also got the chance to really bond with and get to know my students and fellow teachers. When it came time for me to begin teaching full-time, my students were used to me and respected me, and that allowed them to be receptive and able to learn from me. I know that this is an opportunity that not many have, and I feel like I was able to learn so much more from a full year in the same classroom rather than having only one semester.”

Carlton said she first got interested in teaching when she was in high school and visited her mother, who was working at a local elementary school.

“As soon as I walked into the building, I fell in love,” she said. “I saw teachers who were passionate about teaching and I saw students who were genuinely excited to learn, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of that.”

The teaching internship reaffirmed her decision to go into teaching.

“I remember sitting back one day and just watching my students read and work quietly. The classroom was peaceful, I had soft music playing, and I took a moment to soak in the learning environment that my cooperating teacher and I had created,” she said. “I realized in that moment that I genuinely love what I do, even all of the difficult parts. I love my students, I love seeing them grasp a concept, I love lesson planning, and I even love staying late to make sure everything ends up just right. I knew then that I am where I am supposed to be and I am doing what God has called me to do.”

Carlton said the biggest lesson she learned during her internship was the importance of patience.

“It took time for me to realize that every student is different and all of the students are not going to immediately understand everything that I teach them,” she said. “I learned how important it is to show patience and kindness to the students. It really helps them to learn when they know that you are on their side and are willing to help them.”

Carlton also said she learned that teaching is often a balancing act.

“I always joke that teachers have a million tabs open in their brains, and we can’t figure out which one is playing music,” she said. “Lesson planning, attending meetings, recording grades, actually teaching, assessing students, and working one-on-one with students are only a small part of the balance that I had to tackle. It was difficult, but I was able to find the balance. The most rewarding aspect was teaching full-time successfully and seeing my students learn from me. I was nervous about teaching everything, but before I knew it, I did it, and then it was over.”

Carlton credited her coordinating teacher, Mayes, on helping her throughout the internship.

“I cannot say enough about my Mrs. Mayes,” Carlton said. “I believe that we were placed together for a reason, and I truly have a lifelong friend in her and all of the other teachers that I met at Lamar Elementary. She answered my questions and was a true guide and light throughout the whole process. We worked so well together, and I wish that I could take her with me.”

Even before graduating from Ozarks, Carlton had secured a position as a fourth-grade teacher at Clarksville Elementary School, even though she did not feel good about her initial interview.

“My family is from Clarksville, so I really wanted this job,” Carlton said. “The day before my interview, my brother’s house burned to the ground. While everyone was safe, their possessions were not, and I spent the entire day helping to rescue what we could from the house. Going into the interview, I felt underprepared. I completed the interview with peace and confidence that was God-sent, and the next day I received a call that the position was mine if I wanted it. This happened in early March, so I have been extremely blessed and grateful to have had a position so early on. I am so excited to be teaching at my alma mater.”

Carlton praised the University’s education professors for helping prepare her for a career in the classroom.

“The education department here at Ozarks is amazing,” she said. “They have been more than willing to drop everything and answer my questions, and they make themselves available for guidance at any time. Ms. Pam Terry gave us real-life application skills and practice, Dr. Doris Metz ingrained the lesson and unit planning process in our minds, Dr. Allison Freed taught us how to manage our classrooms, Dr. Javier Taylor taught us how to teach in a way that allows students to understand deeply, and Dr.  Brett Stone was the support system behind it all. Although I sometimes complained about all of the work, it was so beneficial to me in the long run. I feel almost over-prepared for my first teaching job.”

The University of the Ozarks' chapter of Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), the international honor society for teacher education, inducted several new members during a special ceremony in the Pat Walker Teacher Education Program on Thursday, April 4. The ceremony included current KDP members as well as faculty and administrators from the program and the University. Both new and current KDP members at the ceremony included, (pictured: front row, from left) Olivia Allard, Annie Rogers, Aubree Sisson, Jesse Cave, Miracle Warren, Ann Rener, Willow Stratton, Tyler O’Banion (back row, from left) Chapter President Shelby Carlton, Lauren Dotson, Makara Frazier, Bailey Hall, Brooklyn Keeling, Whitney McCrary, Tonya Palmer, and chapter sponsor Dr. Javier Taylor, instructor of practice of education. The new inductees were, Allard, Cave, Dotson, Keeling, O'Banion, Rener, Stratton and Warren. The chapter's graduating seniors were also recognized and honored. They included, Carlton, Allard, Rogers, Sisson, Dotson, Frazier, Hall, Keeling, McCrary, Palmer, Poly Ojeda and Jasmine Rosales. Kappa Delta Pi  was founded by Dr. William Bagley in 1911 at the University of Illinois. It was established to foster excellence in education and promote fellowship among those dedicated to teaching. The founders chose the name from the Greek words to represent knowledge, duty, and power. Pioneering from its beginning by including women as well as men, KDP grew from a local chapter to the international organization it is today, comprising 600 chapters and more than 40,000 members. The University of the Ozarks’ Pat Walker Teacher Education Program will formally welcome nine new students into the program during a special induction and pinning ceremony on Thursday, April 18, in the Walker Hall Community Room. The ceremony, which begins at 11:30 a.m., is a symbolic, time-honored tradition marking the occasion when students are welcomed into the Pat Walker Teacher Education Program. The newest inductees will receive a pin that signifies their association with the teaching education program as well as their new affiliation with the teaching profession. Among those U of O students expected to be inducted include, Olivia Allard, Shelby Carlton, Lauren Dotson, Makara Frazier, Brooklyn Keeling, Whitney McCrary, Bailey Hall, Rebecca “Annie” Rogers and Jasmine Rosales. Two students — Tonya Palmer and Emma “Aubree” Sisson — have already been admitted to the program and have received their pins. The event will include remarks from Randi House, the Arkansas Department of Education’s 2018 Arkansas Teacher of the Year. House is a kindergarten teacher for the Conway Public Schools. She previously taught in the Nettleton and East Poinsett County school districts. House is a National Board Certified teacher with 15 years of experience. An alumna of Arkansas State University, House has a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and a master’s degree in reading. She is currently pursuing an Ed.D. in curriculum, instruction and assessment from Walden University. The campus community is invited to attend the ceremony. University of the Ozarks alumna and art and education adjunct professor Dr. Cathy Caldwell was recently presented with the Barbara Teague Leadership Award by the Arkansas Arts Educators at their 2018 conference in early November. Caldwell is a 1969 graduate of Ozarks and has taught as an adjunct faculty member for the U of O art and education programs since 2015. She has taught on all levels, from elementary school to college, in her 45 years in education. “I am so thankful for the 45 years of students who have never failed to provide a catalyst and inspiration for my teaching,” Caldwell said. “Teaching is a most creative art form. It is a special honor to be a recipient of an award from fellow art educators which also honors the difference arts engagement makes in the lives of students.” The Barbara Teague Leadership Award is presented to a past state association officer that is “recognized for their outstanding contributions and service to the profession in the performance and/or development of specific programs, goals, or activities at the state or province association level.” “Dr. Caldwell is an amazing asset to the art program,” said Tammy Harrington, professor of art at Ozarks. “Her knowledge and experience in the art education field is unparalleled and we are so lucky to have her teaching our students.” Caldwell has served as AAE president, membership chair, higher education chair, and conference coordinator.  She has been a visual arts specialist, curriculum coordinator for 14 schools, curriculum coordinator for all subject areas for two elementary schools, a professor in higher education and art department chair. In addition, Caldwell has been the recipient of the AAE’s Higher Education Art Educator Award. She was also selected as the Western Region Higher Education Art Educator of the year and the National Marion Dix Leadership award by the National Art Education Association. She has also been awarded and coordinated grants in curriculum development and preservice education school partnerships. Caldwell took four Ozarks art students to the conference: Aubree Sisson, Tonya Palmer, Kirsten Endicott, and Willow Stratton. “This experience is invaluable to the students and allows them to interact with other art educators from across the state,” Harrington said. “Experiences like these also encourage the students to continue to develop skills and knowledge in this profession.” Caldwell’s husband, Blaine Caldwell, is also a 1969 graduate of Ozarks and taught art at the University for 29 years before retiring in 2011. Chris and Martha Allen of Clarksville have established an endowed scholarship at University of the Ozarks to aid future educators. With a $50,000 commitment, the Allens created the Chris and Martha Allen Scholarship Endowment for Teacher Education. The scholarship will be awarded to education majors at U of O with financial need, with a preference given to those from Johnson County. Martha Allen spent more than 36 years teaching kindergarten through fourth grade in four states — South Carolina, North Carolina, New Mexico and Arkansas. The last 22 years were spent teaching fourth grade in the Clarksville School District.

Meeting a need

“We wanted to create a scholarship to help students at the University and education seemed like the logical choice,” Martha said. “The University does a wonderful job of preparing teachers and this was a way for us to help some of those future teachers pay for their education.” Lori McBee, vice president for advancement, said creating more scholarships for students is one of the University’s main objectives in its current $55 million Climb Higher Campaign. “Nearly 50 percent of our students are Pell eligible, so there is definitely a big need for scholarships,” McBee said. “Chris and Martha’s scholarship endowment will have a huge impact for years to come for so many students pursuing a degree in education. Our students are truly blessed by the generosity of the Allens and of all those who support Ozarks.”
Do more with an IRA
Chris Allen, a retired plant manager at HanesBrand in Clarksville who has served on the U of O Board of Trustees for 17 years, said they were able to create the endowment through an IRA charitable rollover. The Allens will use their IRA’s required minimum distribution to fund the endowment. “We visited with officials at the University and we were able to make it happen,” Chris Allen said. “We’re extremely blessed to be able to create this scholarship for education students. Having lived with a teacher for almost 50 years, I know personally the tremendous amount of time and commitment teachers put into their profession. We need to do all we can to promote and encourage more young people to pursue careers in education.” The Allens, who celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary in April, have lived in Clarksville for the past 30 years. They have two daughters and three grandchildren. Three out of ten new classroom teachers in Arkansas are leaving the profession within five years, a disturbing trend that the University of the Ozarks’ Pat Walker Teacher Education Program is working to help change. The U of O education program is partnering with the Guy Fenter Education Service Cooperative in a unique initiative to improve new teacher retention rates. The Early Career Professional Educators (ECPE) program is a mentoring initiative that will provide training and support to beginning teachers in an effort to keep more young teachers in the classroom. According to the latest data from the Arkansas Department of Education, 31 percent of teachers in Arkansas leave the profession within five years.  The 2018 Arkansas Educator Preparation Provider Quality Report showed that from 2008-2013, 69 percent of new teachers in Arkansas were still teaching after five years. “New teachers in Arkansas are getting out of the profession at an alarming rate and we’re taking the initiative to reverse that trend,” said Dr. Brett Stone, dean of education at Ozarks. “We’ve had an on-going partnership with the Guy Fenter Coop for several years and this program is the next step in that partnership.” The partnership between the University and the cooperative is the first of its kind in Arkansas. Under the agreement, dual-agency positions have been created: the director and assistant director of early career professional educators. The director of the program will be Pam Terry, a former elementary teacher and principal who has led the University’s pre-service teacher field experiences since 2015. Amy Scaccia, a 2009 Ozarks graduate who has taught special education at Lamar High School for the past six years, has been hired as the assistant director of the program. The two positions will be housed in the University’s teacher education center in Walker Hall. Both Terry and Scaccia will continue to teach in the education program at Ozarks while also working with new teachers in the Guy Fenter Coop, which includes 21 area school districts stretching from Lamar in the east to Fort Smith in the west. The program will focus on years one, two and three of novice teachers and will include targeted feedback and support for new teachers from other distinguished teachers, content specialists and University professors through both on-site and technology platforms. The program is expected to include up to 400 early career teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade within the education cooperative in its first year. “We’re going to offer professional development courses and other training and support programs that will reach these teachers during the formative years of their teaching career,” said Terry. “This partnership provides an opportunity to link theory and practice, share information and best practices and create opportunities for collaboration between early career professional educators.” According to data on its own alumni, the retention rate for new U of O teacher education graduates is 90 percent over the past three years. “Our new graduates are staying in the classroom at a much higher rate than the state average and that’s encouraging to us,” Stone said. “We feel like we can share some of the things we’re doing to help retain more teachers in this region.” Roy Hester, the director of the Guy Fenter Education Service Cooperative, said he believes the partnership can help create the best mentoring program in the state for new teachers. “To have the very best mentoring program in the state we need to think outside the box and try doing things a little different than we have in the past. That’s what we’re doing here,” Hester said. “We know that a good mentoring program can play a significant role in shaping the values, beliefs and teaching skills of a new teacher, as well as have a huge influence on their behavior and the choices they make later in their career. One of the main goals is to provide quality mentoring to these young teachers so their choice is to stay in the profession and make a career out of teaching.” Scaccia said the support she received from the University’s teacher education program as a new teacher helped her stay in the classroom. “It’s a very challenging and daunting profession, especially the first couple of years,” Scaccia said. “It’s almost a trial by fire and the support and advice I got from the faculty here at the University was extremely helpful. I think we can provide that same type of support to other teachers in the area and that might make a difference in them staying in the classroom.” The goal is to increase the retention rate for teachers within their fifth year from 69 percent to 82 percent. Terry, who will continue to serve as the University’s placement coordinator, said another benefit of the partnership is that Ozarks education students will have the opportunity to take part in the same training and professional development courses as the new teachers. “Our students will definitely benefit from these professional learning opportunities,” Terry said. “Our students will help facilitate some of these workshops and programs and they will not only benefit from these, but they will have some leadership opportunities as well. The exciting thing is that we might have the opportunity to have a student for four years here at Ozarks and then another three years as a new teacher in the cooperative, for a total of seven years of support and guidance.” Stone said he would like to see the program eventually include professional coaches to help the new teachers. “I believe it would be extremely impactful if we could have professional coaches or consultants who could help these teachers with things like career mapping, networking and common issues in the classroom that might be new to the novice teacher but not new to a veteran teacher,” Stone said. “They can even help with retirement planning or personal finances.  These professional coaches might be people that are no longer serving in positions of authority, such as retired principals or teachers, who could really mentor these young teachers.” The program will begin later this summer with the first workshop taking place at the Guy Fenter Cooperative in Branch, Ark. Other training and workshops are scheduled to be held on campus in the fall. It didn’t take Stephanie Alderson very long to figure out what career path was calling her name. The University of the Ozarks senior elementary education major from Clarksville, Ark., knew that teaching and learning was in her blood, even at a young age. “Teaching has been my dream since I was nine years old,” said Alderson, who graduated from Oark High School in 2014 “I always loved school and would even try to persuade my parents into letting me go when I was sick. I have always wanted to grow up and become a teacher and I would talk my little sister and brother into being my students. I love showing children how awesome learning can be and all of the amazing things that can come out of learning.” Thanks to the University’s Pat Walker Teacher Education Program, Alderson is just a few months away from earning her degree and beginning her professional career in front of the classroom. She is currently serving the second semester of her year-long teaching internship in a first grade classroom at Clarksville Primary School, where she teaches a myriad of subjects including reading, writing, language arts, phonics, math, science, and social studies. “I absolutely love it. The kids are so amazing,” she said. “They love learning and they are always so attentive and eager to hear a new story or learn something new. I have so many different drawings and art pieces they have made me all displayed in my room. They welcomed me into their classroom with open arms and have been so amazing during my both of my internships.” Alderson said the hands-on experience she is receiving in the internship has reaffirmed that she is on the correct career path. “I have no doubt that teaching is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” she said. “My placement teacher, the principal, and all of the staff have been so supportive of having me at their school. My placement teacher, Mrs. [Heather] Dailey, has taught me so many techniques and strategies. She has been teaching for 19 years and I am so thankful to be placed with such an experienced teacher because I have learned so much. She is always encouraging me and giving me great advice and helping me become a better teacher. All of the teachers at Clarksville Primary collaborate and work together like a family and they have all welcomed me and have been great encouragers.” Alderson said the University teacher education program has guided and mentored her on her journey of deciding what direction in education to pursue. “The education program at Ozarks is like no other,” she said. “The faculty and staff are so supportive. They not only know your name, but they know your interests, your strengths and weaknesses and will help you accomplish your goals. We are placed in numerous classrooms starting our first semester in college. This allows us to really get an understanding of exactly what we want to teach and do in education. I started out wanting to become a high school English teacher and now I am about to graduate with a degree in elementary education. This is because Ozarks allowed us to start observing and teaching lessons from the start of our freshman year.” Alderson said the program’s conceptual framework is especially beneficial for laying the foundation of her teaching philosophy. “The framework is organized around four incredibly important themes: academic achievement, personal responsibility, social responsibility and fairness,” Alderson said. “With these four themes and the underlying beliefs that teachers play a central role in social justice and that every student can learn and be successful, professors are preparing students for the real world and helping form our future educators. The University’s conceptual framework promotes excellent teachers that encourage and promote student growth in all areas. We put these beliefs and themes into practice starting from our freshman year all the way through our senior year.” Alderson credited her education professors as well as her cross country coach for helping her achieve her life-long goal. “Pam Terry has been one of my biggest motivators and inspirations,” Alderson said. “She has always believed in me and my abilities, even when I haven’t believed in myself. She has always been there to give me advice, listen to me vent, or give me a hug and tell me that I can achieve anything and that I am going to be an amazing teacher. When students walk into one of Ms. Terry’s classes, they know immediately that they are valued and that they are welcomed. They know that someone believes in them and in their ability to achieve their goals and dreams. I hope to be as an amazing of an educator to children as Ms. Terry has been to me.” “Dr. Brett Stone has played a pivotal role in my journey as well,” she said. “I have always known that I want to be teacher, but I never knew I wanted to teach elementary until the second semester of my sophomore year. Changing my major to this field so late can put many off track and make them have to stay longer when it comes to education because of all of the required courses within the state. However, Dr. Stone helped me form schedules and find summer courses so that I could stay on track and graduate in four years as planned. He always told me that we would get it done, as long as I stayed focused and worked hard. Without Dr. Stone believing in me and my abilities, I would not be graduating on time.” “My cross country coach, Jeremy Provence, has been one of my biggest motivators. Coach always stressed that we are truly student-athletes and that our education is very important. He had us meet for team study groups two nights a week. He always worked practices around our schedules and our educational extra-curricular activities. Also, Coach Provence always gave us Sunday mornings and nights off so we could go to church. He always helped me out with Fellowship of Christian Athletes when I needed a helping hand. I have grown so much closer with God here thanks to the support of my coach. Coach always believed in me and helped me find opportunities to become a better leader. He always emphasized the importance of going the extra mile in our classes, like we do in practice. I wouldn’t be the person or the teacher I am today without coach instilling the values of grit and hard work in us when it comes to education, running, and our dreams.”