SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — The desire to excel is what motivates Wittenberg School of Community Education (SCE) student Yuvonda Wells to earn a college degree.
Her academic ambitions, in the face of tremendous personal adversity, have recently been recognized by Soroptimist International, a non-profit organization that provides more than $800,000 annually to women who are the primary wage earners for their families and have overcome adversities to pursue educational and professional goals. In May, Wells was a recipient of a $500 Women’s Opportunity Award from the Soroptimist International of Northeast Suburban Franklin County.
The club level award and resulting district recognition made her a finalist for the Midwestern region. She was recently presented a $5,000 regional cash award at a convention in Fond du Lac, Wisc., and she is now placed into a pool of national candidates, where regional winners throughout the world will compete for three $10,000 cash awards. The recipients will attend a convention in Los Angeles held July 8-10.
“I’m grateful, thankful and shocked,” she said of her awards. “I didn’t think my efforts were worthy of recognition.”
Wells, class of 2006, is studying Organizational Leadership and is on track to receive a degree in management next spring, but the journey toward a diploma has been filled with twists and turns. In 1994, Wells was involved in a near-fatal car accident which left her with severe brain damage and other serious bodily injuries. Her recovery process has been ongoing.
“The accident robbed me of many things,” she said, noting that simple decision-making was difficult.
Daily tasks, such as cooking and cleaning, became a challenge. With the help of her daughter, Candace, who was seven at the time of the accident, Wells soon began to relearn basic skills.
“My daughter is the inspiration of my life,” Wells said. “She helped me to read again, taught me how to tell time, do laundry and put gas in the car.”
Like her mother, Candace, age 17, has college aspirations and attended Wittenberg this past year through the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options Program (PSEOP), which allows high school students to enroll in college courses and earn credit.
During Wells’ rehab process - what she refers to as a “difficult journey” - she developed an urge to learn. She admits even doing her daughter’s homework to fulfill her desire.
“[Candace] told me if I wanted to do homework I should go to school,” Wells said.
So she did. Wells enrolled at Wittenberg in 2001 through the SCE as a non-traditional adult student. She wanted to attend Wittenberg because she liked what the university represented academically and also enjoyed the people on campus. Wells said she feels at home in the Wittenberg community and is appreciative of the faculty, staff and students. Wittenberg impressed her, and she decided “there was no compromise.”
Though Wells was excited to challenge herself, she knew there would be obstacles involved. The most difficult problem was remembering when and where her classes were held, a problem she still struggles with.
“I live by post-it notes,” she said. “I use them to remember to take my medicine, to remember to go to the grocery and to the doctor.”
No reminders are necessary for Wells when she credits Bin Yu, professor of political science, who has encouraged her throughout her time at Wittenberg. She said she especially admires him for his wealth of knowledge and is appreciative for the eye-opening perspective she has gained from him.
“He’s made me think about people on a different level,” she said. “He has helped me to realize that success is not always measured in grades.”
Still, Wells has excelled academically. She is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and Alpha Sigma Lambda, a national honor society for non-traditional adult students. Wells was also named to the dean’s list for the spring 2004 semester.
She is not only academically motivated, but also career-oriented. As a management major, with a minor in political science, she wants to work for a logistics company as a licensed U.S. customs broker and eventually own and operate a custom brokerage company. She has already experienced a taste of the business world when she worked for World Wide Logistics, in Dayton, Ohio, helping to negotiate the installation of fiber-optic cable in Athens, Greece, for the 2004 Olympics. The task allowed her to travel throughout the U.S., as well as internationally, an opportunity she most looks forward to in the future.
“There’s a wonderful world out there, and I want to see it,” she said.
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