Stories of Excellence - Rebecca Calhoun
Rebecca Calhoun knows what it means to overcome adversity. Throughout life she has persisted in her dreams regardless of circumstances. In December, she achieved a major goal.
Born and raised in Washington D.C., Calhoun began her career at 20, working at the Washington Hospital Center – Human Resources department as a receptionist. She dedicated herself to learning everything she could about the Human Resources department, piece by piece. Her supervisor, noting her initiative, advised her to increase her opportunities by earning a degree so Calhoun could “get paid for the knowledge you know.” Calhoun began coursework at Montgomery College in Tacoma Park, MD, beginning in business administration but changing to nursing.
However, a stroke of the brain in 1993 left her paralyzed on her left side, blind and deaf. Once she overcame her initial shock, Calhoun’s drive kicked in. “I said to myself this has happened, what am I going to do to try to survive through this situation?” she recounted. “I learned how to live alone. I learned how to do my own cleaning, washing, ironing and cooking. And I’ve learned how to just survive in this state. Now it’s like I was born this way because of my determination.”
That same drive led her back to school to finish her degree, a long-time goal for Calhoun. “I always wanted my degree. Always. Even when I was young I said I’m going to get my degree no matter what it takes.” And she did. Calhoun began the Office Administration program August 2012. While Calhoun speaks highly of many faculty and staff members at Mitchell, she noted in particular the impact instructor and advisor MaryBeth Powden had on her. Seeing the spark in Calhoun, Powden helped to guide her and cheer her on academically and personally. When Calhoun’s health concerns–including breaking her foot, “The only time I missed school”–became an obstacle, she worked with Powden and her other instructors to continue her studies. “A lot of days I didn’t feel good but I went to school,” she said. “I kept going. I just kept going. I believe I can do it no matter what. I don’t like the words I can’t. So if somebody says ‘I can’t’ I take the ‘t’ off it and say ‘I can’.”
During her time at Mitchell, Calhoun participated in the work-study program, performing clerical duties in Mitchell’s Counseling department. Financial Aid staff member Mark West helped connect her with Success Institute Charter School to work in the school office. This opportunity has turned into a paid position, and Calhoun currently serves as an Office Support employee for the charter school.
In December 2016, Calhoun graduated from Mitchell with a General Occupational Technology degree and certificates in Office Administration and Management. She did so with Honors (a 3.5 GPA) and achieved her goal at 59 years of age. “I wanted to get my degree before I was 60,” she said, “And I did.” Calhoun reflects fondly on her time at Mitchell. “I love Mitchell Community College and the staff,” she noted. She extended her thanks to Mark West for his assistance with the work study program, to MaryBeth Powden her ever-supportive advisor and to Theresa Spencer for her endless assistance. “I am very grateful to say I was a part of Mitchell Community College,” she said. And Mitchell is grateful in turn to have been a part of Rebecca Calhoun’s success.
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