Written by: Juan Steele, Class of 2017
My wife, Lekisha, and I have plenty to celebrate these days. At the top of the list is the fact that we will be graduating together in October from Columbia Southern University with our bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice.
We met twenty-seven years ago in the hallways of Hoke County High School in Raeford, North Carolina in 1990. We have been inseparable ever since.
After completing high school, I relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina, where I attended Shaw University. Lekisha’s studies took her to Sand Hills Community College in nearby Pinehurst. We got engaged and before completing my degree at Shaw University, I made the decision to enlist in the U.S. Army. Lekisha placed her scholarly endeavor on hold to ensure our growing family was intact. After completing basic and advanced training, our first duty station was Bad Kreuznach, Germany.
After one child and many years of chasing our careers, we both decided it was time for us to return to school and finish what we started years ago. Education has forever been the focal point of our family. It has been a lot of hard work and sarifices, but it was well worth it. We thought it would be pretty cool to attend school together and graduate together, while also setting an example for our son.
Today, I am a twenty-year Army veteran who has seen five deployments with my soulmate and son acting as my support system. I have an associate’s degree from Central Texas College and a second associates from CSU. I also holds several industry standard IT certifications including CompTia and Microsoft. I am a proud member of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc., Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), CSU SVA and Lambda Alpha Epsilon Criminal Justice Honor Association. I have been awarded the Bronze Order of Mercury from the U.S. Army Signal Corp Regiment.
My wife is the honor student; she earned her associate’s from CSU, she is a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success, Lambda Alpha Epsilon Criminal Justice Honor Association and the Order of Sword and Shield. She has also been awarded the Bronze Watcheye medal from the U.S. Army Signal Corp Regiment.
We are now stationed back in Kaiserslautern, Germany and are preparing to travel to Orange Beach to attend our graduation ceremony. Our son, Jarvis, will be our honored guest at graduation. He is currently attending Georgia Southern University as a political science and philosophy major. Words cannot express our joy for our son to witness our hard work and dedication. Hopefully seeing his parents complete something they both started years before will be his motivation to continue on his journey in completing his degree.
This has been a long journey filled with many scarifies, but to finally finish something we started twenty years ago and to do it with someone you truly love and admire was well worth the sacrifices. When Lekisha earned her associates in criminal justice in 2014 from CSU, she declined to attend the ceremony in light of my deployment to Africa at the time. Now, we feel this has been such an amazing journey for our entire family so for it to be complete, we must celebrate graduation day together.
Our marriage and love have always been based on friendship, understanding and a balance that we bring to each other’s lives. That balance is employed in our daily life and is what has enabled us to achieve our goals and follow our dreams. That same balance will result in us beginning our master’s degree programs in early 2018.
As I begin my transition from career solider to civilian, I intend to follow my dream of becoming a military instructor and college professor. My wife plans to also follow her dreams into the early education classroom. Columbia Southern University has forever changed our lives.