celebrate education - brought to you by the amarillo globe-news
 

Long hours bring rewards

WT graduate knows work pays off

By Brad Newman
brad.newman@amarillo.com

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.

calendar of events
  • January 11
    Kickoff of 2009 Program
    Find out what Celebrate Education is all about in this special section in your Sunday paper.
  • March 7
    Regional Spelling Bee, West Texas A&M University
    The annual Regional Spelling Bee will feature the top spellers from the Amarillo area. The top five winners will receive scholarship money ranging from $500 to $5,000 and the winner will travel to Washington, D.C., in June to represent the area in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
  • Spring and Fall
    Amarillo Reads community-wide reading projects.
    Dates and details TBA
  • April
    Amarillo Education Matching Grants Program. Exact date TBA
  • April 10
    What's a Kid to Do Special Section
  • April 12
    What's a Kid to Do at the Amarillo Civic Center
    This event will focus on activities and camps for children to participate in during the summer..
  • May 8-29
    Beating the Odds
    A series of stories published daily in the Amarillo Globe-News during the graduation season that profiles people who have inspiring stories to tell about the degree they are about to receive.
  • May 12
    Ready for the Real World program at Amarillo Civic Center
    AISD juniors get training on what's going to face them in a little more than a year.
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Special Section
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Event at West Texas A&M University
  • Fall
    Discover College Day
    Fifth graders from area schools visit college campuses.
  • October 1
    Great Jobs Special Section
    Focusing on well paying jobs available in the area that people may not know about.
  • November 2
    Career Education Special Section
    Focusing on businesses and others in the community helping young people gain a career vision.
  • November
    Yes You Can Event
    Designed to help people gain information about the next level of education from GED to PhD. Date TBA.
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