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Long hours bring rewards
WT graduate knows work pays offBy Brad Newman
For Sonny Calhoun, going to college meant years of sacrifice.
Calhoun, of Happy, commuted to West Texas A & M University to pursue his bachelor's degree while working full-time and supporting his wife and four children.
But today - eight years after his first college course - Calhoun will receive his diploma from WT.
He plans to seek a career teaching math and coaching.
"It's been a long journey," the 26-year-old said. "This is a definite accomplishment, and I'm excited about being finished."
Calhoun began taking classes from WT after graduating from Happy High School in 2000.
His pursuit slowed as he and his wife, Kirah, started a family.
The couple now have two boys, Austin, 6, and Jared, 2, and 1-year-old twin girls, Emma and Raelyn.
Calhoun transferred to Amarillo College for four years before re-enrolling at WT in 2005.
He took a combination of online and mostly night classes, averaging 12 credit hours each semester.
When he wasn't in school, Calhoun likely was working at Farmers Elevator in Happy, a job he has kept since his junior year of high school.
"He's earned his education all on his own," said Gary Barrett, manager of Farmers Elevator. "You don't find many people like that who are willing to work so hard."
Calhoun's school and work schedules often kept him away from home.
"It was rough at times," Kirah Calhoun said. "Fortunately, we're close enough as a family that it worked out OK."
Despite his busy lifestyle, Sonny Calhoun also found time to stay involved in his community.
He coaches t-ball, tutors math to local students and is an active member of United Methodist Church in Happy.
"I think the world of Sonny," Barrett said. "He cares about kids, he has a super family, he doesn't complain and he doesn't brag. He's the real deal."
A college degree will bring new opportunities to the Calhoun family, Sonny Calhoun said.
"Being able to better support my family is the biggest thing," he said.
"Plus, I'm ready to be teaching and coaching. I'm going to be doing something I really love, and that's exciting," Sonny Calhoun said.
The achievement also will allow Kirah Calhoun to begin her own educational goal to become a physical therapist. She plans to start classes this fall.
Sonny Calhoun, a first-generation student, said he hopes his experience can encourage others to pursue education regardless of the situation.
"Never quit," he said. "Even if you're just taking one class, stay in school. Stay patient and determined, and it will be worth it."
Editor's Note: The Amarillo Globe-News is profiling a student a day from May 9-29 as part of its 2008 graduation coverage. Students were nominated by Globe-News readers.
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