Perseverance Delivers Sanders to ATU Degree

Arkansas Tech University provided Willie Sanders with the right framework to complete a college degree.

Now that he has his Bachelor of Professional Studies degree in hand, he is ready to pay that gift forward.

“My thing is to always give back to my community,” said Sanders, who graduated from ATU during spring 2018 commencement ceremonies at John E. Tucker Coliseum in Russellville on Saturday. “God gave me that second chance, and now I’m always trying to give someone else a second chance.”

Sanders, 52 of Benton, said he enrolled at Arkansas Tech a couple of years ago. He had previously attempted to earn an education degree at another institution, but fell just short of his goal. The faculty at ATU ensured that this time would be different.

“The instructors in the College of eTech are very, very, very good,” said Sanders, who has an interest in pursuing graduate study at ATU. “I love each and every one of them. Dr. Tennille Lasker-Scott, Dr. Jeff Aulgur, Jennifer Saxton…all of them. They are amazing. I would advise any non-traditional student who really wants to get their degree to get into the ATU Bachelor of Professional Studies program.”

One stop out from college is far from the greatest challenge Sanders has overcome.

He served 13 years in the U.S. Army as a combat medic. He said his fellow soldiers who weren’t able to come home were on his mind at graduation on Saturday.

In addition, Sanders is winning the battle against substance abuse. He said he has been clean for 16 years.

“You have to go through some tests to have a testimony,” said Sanders. “A lot of people counted me out, but God said, ‘no Willie, you can do it.’ My mom is deceased and I have a sister-in-law who is deceased, and they both encouraged me to get back into school back in January 2013. My wife and kids, they are here, and they’ve been so supportive and encouraged me even when I wanted to quit. I’m just grateful. I’ve got tears of joy right now.”