Soldier success stories show how each achieved academic excellence
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea - Each year the Camp Humphreys Army Education Center hosts American Education Week. The event features a wealth of information, seminars and opportunities for community members to learn about what the center offers as well as the chance to enhance their education.
This year's theme: "Army Continuing Education: Achieving Academic Excellence While Serving" reflects the education center's philosophy of providing maximum opportunities for Soldiers, Civilians and Families.
Three Soldiers spoke during the week and shared their success stories, the first Master Sgt. Akinola Oladipo, Headquarters, U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, stressed that education is within reach for everyone who was determined, dedicated and had the discipline to stick with it.
"Twenty years ago I joined the military, for money, for college. My intention was to do four years and get out," he said.
Oladipo enlisted in the Infantry and soon found he had little personal time for anything, especially college given his busy schedule of field training, rotations and other duties.
"I went to education center and signed up for college and in my first two years it was really, really difficult, we went to the field a lot and I had to drop out of classes."
Oladipo found a solution to his busy schedule when the Army unveiled E Army U, an E-learning program the Army created to provide Soldiers the opportunity to earn a degree by taking classes online from any location at any time.
He signed up for E Army U and over the years earned an associate's degree, two bachelor's degrees--one in accounting, the other in business administration--and a dual master's degree in Organizational Leadership and Human Resources Management.
"Don't let anybody tell you that you can't do it," Oladipo said. "I did all that through deployments, through National Training Center rotations, even while being a first sergeant at Fort Benning, Georgia."
Oladipo calls his philosophy Three Ds that equal 12 As. He said this philosophy helped him earn 12 A grades in his college courses.
"Determination: if you want to do something you have to be determined to do it. When you wake up with determination you go to bed with satisfaction every day."
"Dedication: dedicate time to do everything you want to do," he said. "Make education one of those things you dedicate time to."
"Discipline: have the discipline to study when others are playing."
"Devotion: when someone is devoted, they will devote time to something. If you're not, you won't do it."
Oladipo said everyone should take advantage of the education opportunities the Army offers through the education center. He said the Army has paid for everything with respect to his education.
"Why not take the advantage? 60 percent of the people who join the Army joined for college but 90 percent never go. Do you know why? Because they didn't do a single class while they were in. You have to get in the habit of doing something, even if it's one class per semester, that will get the ball rolling," Oladipo said.
Before you know it, little by little you will have a degree.
"A year from now I don't want you to say 'I wish I had started today.' I'm not tell you it will be easy but I'm telling you at the end of the day it will be well worth the effort," he said.
Thursday was the day for two other Soldiers to shine and share their educational success stories.
Spc. Madinah English, 501st Signal Company, came to the Army from a civilian career as an athletic trainer with a bachelor's degree in Athletic Training (Sports Medicine) from the University of South Florida and a master's degree in Health and Human Performance.
After she graduated from college English worked as an athletic trainer, a physical therapist and taught athletic training for several years. But she knew she needed a change.
"I was burnt out from doing all that, so I enlisted to have another career without going into debt, I had student loan debt still to pay from masters studies," English said. "I wanted to get another skill set without going into debt."
English said that because she has a degree she was geared toward Officer Candidate School but while in basic training she learned her GT score of 109 was too low to get into OCS--she needed a 110. She took the test again and her score dropped to 99.
Not dissuaded, English decided to wait until she finished Advanced Individual Training and then work on raising her GT score.
As soon as she arrived at Camp Humphreys English visited the Humphreys Education Center. She spoke with counselors and did everything she needed to raise her GT score.
Came to the education center as soon as she came to Korea. Did everything she needed to do, studied hard and raised her GT score to 126.
English said that she's still interested in earning an officer's commission but is not sure OCS is the path to take.
I still want to be a commissioned officer but, with my medical background, I'm not sure I want to be an officer who can be placed anywhere, she said.
English said she will explore other paths to commission and may go into the Army's Physical Therapy career field.
As she closed her remarks, English shared some wisdom she's gained along the way. Always have a plan for your life, my mom stressed going to college. I've had a plan since middle school.
English said that while having a plan is important one must be flexible in the face of change. She said that she never expected to join the military but things changed in her life and led her to it. She is glad she did and enjoys it.
Next, English said to expect delays and roadblocks to your progress because it prepares you for when you encounter them.
"If you expect it, you can pick up and move forward," she said.
Next for English is sacrifice; be willing to sacrifice to get what you want.
Discipline. To succeed one must be disciplined, whether it's studying, working, attending class, etc. "If you aren't you won't get what you want," English said.
Finally, English advised tenacity and persistence.
"Never give up, you're never too old to do what you want to do," she concluded.
The next Soldier success story came from Spc. Benjamin Ziegler who enlisted in the Army to become a pilot. Soon though, he learned that his GT of 96 was too low to qualify.
And so he visited the Education Center and asked for help.
The staff also signed him up for the Test of Adult Basic Education. The results were disappointing.
"I tested in math at the sixth-grade level and reading at the ninth-grade level," he said.
Ziegler didn't let that stop him, though. He returned to the Education Center and signed up for the Basic Skills Education Program to raise his scores.
"The people were great, they focused on math and English, reading comprehension," Ziegler said. "I took a TABE test after and raised all my scores to a twelfth-grade level."
Ziegler felt he was ready to test to see if his GT score was higher. The education center staff counseled patience and recommended he take some practice tests before the real one.
"I took two Armed Forces Classification Test practice tests, then real one and thought: 'I bombed it' but they said 'No,' you got a 115. I couldn't believe it, I was so excited."