Students in college often experience both personal growth and challenges during their time on campus. For some students, however, unique circumstances present them with the opportunity to create an even more unique college experience than the majority of their classmates. From coming to school with a child to living with disabilities, many students at Oklahoma Christian University bring diverse perspectives to campus.
Senior Bible student Steve Newcomb has returned to school full-time nearly thirty years after he began his higher education in 1989 at the College of Lake County.
“I’ve always been associated with a college, mostly for the music,” Newcomb said. “Even though I did not finish a degree, I would always go to colleges to take classes or be in the choir. My actual first degree was in 1992. That was the last time I was in college full-time. Everything else was just part-time while I was working full-time.”
Newcomb said an aspect he enjoys is being off from school when his children are, on holidays and during the summer. Despite the challenge to balance school activities with family life, and school activities sometimes taking time away from family, Newcomb said other aspects allow him to spend more time with his family.
According to Newcomb, one of his concerns about coming back to school was the age difference between him and other students, but his experience is not as awkward as people might think.
“There are more people now who are used to having a non-traditional student, whereas maybe a few years ago it was a strange thing,” Newcomb said. “I love the spiritual aspect of Oklahoma Christian. Everyone here is really supportive. Because we go to church together and we do things together, it makes it easier for me to fit in.”
Molly Pickard, a sophomore at Oklahoma Christian, is the mother of a 3-year-old girl named Kimber. Pickard transferred to Oklahoma Christian this year and decided to rush a social service club this semester. She said being a young mother has affected her life in many ways, both positively and negatively.
“A challenge I have faced being here at Oklahoma Christian is, even though I’m not alone, I feel alone because I am not a normal student, so I don’t get to go do all the fun things that everyone else is doing,” Pickard said. “Actually finding time to do homework is hard, because Kimber is my main priority.”
Pickard said the staff at Oklahoma Christian has been wonderful in helping her and Kimber, and have assisted her in getting her apartment quickly when she moved to Edmond, OK. She said they are always accommodating when she needs to leave class to take care of her daughter.
“Because I am such a young mother, it forced me to grow up a lot faster,” Pickard said. “Since I’m young, Kimber and I will be able to have an amazing bond. I feel that if I were put in a tough situation, I would be able to handle it better because it wouldn’t just affect me but Kimber also.”
Senior biology student Dakota Doucet is a member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). Doucet comes from a family of military members, including his father who was in the Navy and is now in the Air National Guard.
“In July of 2014, I received a phone call from the recruiter at UCO’s ROTC,” Doucet said. “I was offered a STEM scholarship for tuition at Oklahoma Christian. The cherry on top was that Oklahoma Christian supports the ROTC by giving room and board scholarships to individuals who have received an ROTC scholarship.”
Doucet said the main skill he has had to learn is time management. Every semester, he said he takes an average of 20 hours of classes at Oklahoma Christian, along with additional required ROTC classes and training.
“It has taught me to strive for excellence in all that I do,” Doucet said. “My actions today may not directly affect me today, but they will later down the road. It has taught me resiliency and determination. If you want something bad enough, you will find some way to obtain it. If you don’t obtain it, then it’s your own doing.”
Through ROTC, Doucet said he has been able to attend military training at Fort Knox and lived in Germany for a month working with the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany.
Jacque Gavrilys, a secondary English education major at Oklahoma Christian, lives with cerebral palsy, which he said has positive and negative effects on his social life and academic career. Before coming to Oklahoma Christian, Gavrilys attended Coffeeville Community College and Sunset Bible Institute.
“Anytime I do anything with friends, they have to take on the responsibility of taking care of me for a short period of time,” Gavrilys said. “The positive is that I learn quickly who my true friends are. My disability gives me a chance to teach others what service is truly all about.”
According to Gavrilys, school can sometimes be difficult, as he has to get help with writing and typing assignments.
“For most students, there is the stress of schoolwork and making sure deadlines are met,” Gavrilys said. “While I have that same struggle, I also have the added stress of making sure I have caregivers both for my physical and academics needs.
After Gavrilys graduated from Sunset Bible Institute, he took a job with the Broken Arrow Church of Christ as an intern for their youth group. At a recruiting event for the youth group, he met Oklahoma Christian Admissions Counselor Michael Cooper. It was then he decided to come and visit the Oklahoma Christian campus.
“When I came onto campus, it was almost an instantaneous, ‘Yes!’” Gavrilys said. “I just love the people at OC. Even though they didn’t really understand what my disability means, they were willing to learn.”