All Shynece Scott needed was a chance.
She knew she had the work ethic necessary to succeed in college, but her test scores left her wondering if she would get the opportunity to prove it.
"Passing standardized tests has been a huge struggle in my life," said Scott. "It wasn't until a few semesters ago that I learned that I actually have a learning disability. Having this learning disability played a huge part in my struggle to pass tests. But when I learned about my learning disability, I did not use that as an excuse to not try. It motivated me to try even harder in everything I did.”
That persistence was rewarded on Saturday, Dec. 12, when Scott received not one, but two degrees from Arkansas Tech University.
Her Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education and Bachelor of Professional Studies degree with an emphasis in early childhood development were among more than 1,100 degrees conferred by ATU at the close of the fall 2020 semester.
Arkansas Tech presented a virtual celebration of graduates in lieu of traditional, in-person commencement ceremonies, which were cancelled for fall 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The virtual celebration is available at www.atu.edu/registrar/graduation.php.
A native of Russellville, Scott began her education at Oakland Heights Elementary School. She graduated from Russellville High School in 2014 and was admitted to Arkansas Tech. Due to her admission status, she was required to pass tests on specific topics in order to avoid remedial classes.
“I was a nervous wreck, but I prayed hard and just did the best I could,” said Scott. “By the grace of God alone, I was able to pass those tests and did not have to take any remedial classes.”
Beyond the classroom, Scott was active in Special Olympics College at Arkansas Tech and served the registered student organization as its president.
"We live in a world where people long to be included," said Scott. "But individuals with disabilities are often overlooked when it comes to being included. Special Olympics College wanted to help bridge that gap. We wanted people with and without disabilities to come together and just get to know each other for who they are."
Scott credits her faith as one of the essential factors in her success. Another was the care and compassion she found in the ATU Student Support Services (SSS) program.
“Being a part of SSS opened doors I never knew existed,” said Scott. “It allowed me to take cultural trips, attend workshops, access one-on-one tutoring, receive free textbooks and benefit from private studying space.”
Karl Lowry of Fountain Lake and Milisa Montgomery of Hagarville were among Scott’s peers in the ATU SSS program.
Lowry graduated at the conclusion of the fall 2020 semester with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. He overcame a disability, personal illness and family health concerns to complete his ATU degree online.
“There have been several times when quitting would have been an easy choice, but I would have let myself and the faculty down,” said Lowry. “They are invested in people and I am grateful for their kindness.”
He hopes to complete a Master of Arts degree in history and teach community college students.
Montgomery also plans to serve others, but her talents lie in the medical field. She completed ATU’s RN-to-BSN nursing program in fall 2020.
"As a single mother of four, it was hard to find the courage to start college," said Montgomery. "Then, learning to balance kids, work and school was an even bigger challenge."
She leaned on her classmates when it all seemed like too much.
"They are like family," said Montgomery of her fellow nursing students. "Being much older than them, they adopted me as a mom figure. There are many memories with my classmates, from study groups to clinicals.”
Montgomery will begin a new career opportunity in January 2021 at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville.
As for Scott, she hopes to remain home in Russellville and pay forward the mentorship that made her academic success possible.
"My dream school to work for is Dwight Elementary," said Scott. "Two people who have made such a huge impact on my life work there, Julie Anne Hilton and Mrs. (Laura) Binz. Julie Anne is the teacher who gave me the love for teaching. It would be a dream come true to be there with her."
Learn more about the ATU SSS program at www.atu.edu/sss.