“Experience and a high school diploma aren’t enough anymore. Third World countries have realized this and are making changes, and we need to too. Degrees aren’t given for a job, they’re given for a career. I’ve had good jobs, but a better more satisfying career is coming.”
Keith Yancy’s words are challenging, impressive and are the words of experience from a physically challenged man. At only 13 years old Keith lost both his legs at the calves and his right arm at the elbow to a brown recluse spider bite.
Upon his graduation from Thomas W. Kelly High School in 1984, Keith applied to Southeast Missouri State University only to leave after one semester. His explanation for dropping out is evident in his advice to students -- think of the future, and do not live for now. While living for now, he spent the next 15 years working several jobs in management, making good money, but becoming discouraged as big industry changed and he found he couldn’t cope with the decline in work ethics. Also, as a single parent of three children ages 4, 5 and 7, he said he wanted a career that would be fulfilling as well as financially stable.
After considering accounting and the medical field, he said he felt the educational options seemed too difficult for his life situation. Then, when looking in the newspaper for employment opportunities, he was interested to find there were always positions available for those in counseling. Realizing he was a good listener and that others commented on how easily they could talk to him about their difficulties, he pursued counseling.
With a matured understanding that education is work and not play, Keith began classes at the Sikeston Higher Education Center (SAHEC) in the spring of 2005. His decision on choosing the Sikeston facility came from convenience and necessity.
“I don’t work a job outside the home, but I am a homemaker, parent and college student,” he said. “Choosing SAHEC allowed me to plan my class schedule around my kid’s activities and their school, while still managing to carry 15 credit hours a semester.”
SAHEC is only eight miles from his home, and with more courses being added and the college’s technology expanding, Keith’s plans become more feasible every day.
Keith currently has a 3.6 grade point average as he works towards his major in psychology. He attributes a great part of his success to Judy Buck, the director of SAHEC and his student advisor, Helen Steinmetz.
“They were there for me when I began planning my future,” Keith said.
He also appreciates his college funding through the Pell grant, student loans and vocational rehabilitation.
“College is not like high school, and that’s what kids think. As a college student, you are paying for someone to teach you, so if you don’t show up, they aren’t going to reprimand you. You’re there to learn for yourself,” Keith stresses.
He’s found that attending a smaller size campus makes it easier to make the transition, because it has the feel of high school. He also says, “There is more interaction with instructors at a smaller campus and that makes you feel more comfortable, and when you are comfortable, you can learn better and quicker.”
After having courses with different instructors, he feels that Southeast professors are more experienced which enables them to better connect with students. That connection entices them to want to learn, he says.
He encourages students to not be afraid to ask for help. Keith cringes at the thought of a student sitting in an auditorium of 100-plus students risking making bad grades or even failing a class just because they were afraid to speak up and ask what everyone else wanted to ask. It’s apparent that Keith has a concern for the well-being of others, especially those who are as unsure of their future as he once was.
Today as a SAHEC student with plans to get a master’s degree in psychology and then become a licensed counselor, he has met the challenge of uncertainty and emerged with great expectations of himself and his future career.