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For Argosy University Graduate Kareema Fletcher Lewis, A Second Chance is All She Needed

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Kareema Fletcher Lewis knows just how powerful the kindness of strangers can be.

Back in 2012, Lewis—then a single mother with four children, including two with special needs—was facing challenges that would have broken the spirit of someone less resilient.

Lewis had completed her associate’s degree when her oldest son was in eighth grade, and she was determined to earn her bachelor’s degree in psychology before he graduated high school. When she enrolled at Argosy University in Atlanta to study psychology two years earlier, she was the first in her family ever to attend college. But with one daughter in remission from leukemia and a newborn with Down’s Syndrome, the obstacles were overwhelming.

“It became more than I could handle,” remembers Lewis, now 35. “I had four kids under the age of 12, including one daughter with serious medical issues and another with special needs. I failed one of my classes because I had no time to study, and I was under incredible financial pressure. Even though I was only eight classes away from graduation, something had to give—and that something was my education.”

While she knew she made the right decision under the circumstances, it was one Lewis often regretted. Three years later, in 2015, she was feeling frustrated and defeated. She was working at a community services center that provided second chances to people recovering from addiction, but she felt like her own life and career had come to a standstill.

“I was passed up for jobs because I didn’t have the educational background they required,” she explains. “I knew I needed to complete my degree in order to create the career and life I wanted for my children, but I just couldn’t see how I could make it work.”

Lewis decided it was time to try creating a second chance for herself. She picked up the phone and made a call that would change her life.

“I decided to call Argosy University Online, explain my situation, and see if anyone could or would help me,” she recalls. “I connected with an admissions representative named Richard Gerhardt. After I explained my situation, he said he’d call me back in an hour—and he did! He went so far above and beyond what he needed to do. He found a scholarship I was eligible for. He showed me how to utilize prior learning assessment in some of my classes. He connected me with John Barley, a finance counselor at Argosy who helped me apply for student loans and created a payment plan that I could manage. The encouragement and kindness Richard and John showed me gave me hope at a time when hope was hard to find.”

Her decision to return to college reaped immediate rewards. Soon after showing her employer proof that she had returned to college, she received a promotion. Eight classes later—on December 3, 2016—Lewis graduated with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, with a concentration in Criminal Justice. It was also a big day for two other reasons. Earlier that day, she spoke by phone with her father, whom she’d never met. Later that night, her boyfriend proposed marriage.

With all of the good things happening in her busy life, Lewis was ready to exhale and slow down. But when Richard Gerhardt encouraged her to consider pursuing her master’s degree, she listened.

“At first, I just laughed,” Lewis recalls. “I had already accomplished more than I imagined was possible. But the more we talked, the more seriously I considered it. He pointed out that I’d already developed a routine, a structure and study habits that worked for me. When he showed me how I could earn my master’s degree in 13 months, I decided to go for it.”

Now just four classes away from her completing her Master of Science in Human Services, Lewis is on track to graduate in December.

“It’s amazing how the kindness of strangers can change a person’s life forever,” says Lewis, who recently started a new job as a Child Protective Officer with the Georgia Department of Family and Children’s Services. “When I called Argosy, I never expected that the person who answered would become such a powerful influence in my life. Even though I’ve never met Richard in person, I feel like he’s a friend. Every step of the way, Richard, John and so many others at Argosy have been there for me. I did the work, but they helped me believe. I’m hoping I can meet them one day to give them a hug and to say thank you in person.”

Lewis is certain that without their support, her life would have been very different.

“It hasn’t always been easy,” she says, “but it’s absolutely been worth it. The process of earning my two degrees has allowed me to be a role model to my children, to show them anything is possible. That means the world to me. I love knowing that my kids are as proud of me as I am of myself.” ###

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Developing Good Habits

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CREATE GOOD HABITS; Change small things! Simply stated, create good habits by making simple changes in your life. Pinpoint ideas you “will” implement. Subsequently, increase the gramarye of changing old habits to launch a new and healthier behavior, which becomes an essential, but normal function of everyday life. Successful change translates into repeated action regularly that requires no continual deep concentration. At this apex operating level, human behavior has become routine. As a result, evolution is complete! The process entails getting rid of unwanted desires by keeping at bay temptations—intentionally to permit permanent replacement and receive stimulation from new rituals.

The truth is “change” is not easy! Creating new good habits and breaking old bad habits requires an action plan—whether fine tuning or transformational. The former considers re-examining prior self-challenges to help become more mindful of strength gains in prominent areas—self-concept and self-esteem. This reflection means tweaking behaviors, which solidifies you are on the right path. The latter involves fundamental, large-scale change that yields new channels of perceiving, thinking, relating and behaving—Personally, Professionally, as well as Academically.

In a practical sense, incremental steps allows for better digestion to experience maintaining degrees of change. Nevertheless, adjustments have to take place (internally mentally/externally physical action) that will inevitably affect prevailing structures and systems. Consequently, it is urgent to identify beneficial applications before adherence develops and change last. Raising attention, says, to self and others, “I- we must do something” about an issue to ultimately combat complacency, fear, and anger that prevent change from starting (Kotter & Cohen, 2002).

The Science of How to Form Habits (BJ Fogg, 2014):

PRECEPTS

a. Simplicity Matters More Than Motivation

b. Emotions Create Habits

c. Change Behavior Without Relying on Willpower

d. Pick New Behaviors; “want” to enact –vs– things “should” do

e. Success Makes Tiny Habits Grow Into Bigger Habits - Other Areas of Change

f. Share ‘Tiny Habits Method’ With Others

4-STEPS TO CHANGE HABITS

1) Make New Behavior You Want Really ‘small’ = “tiny

2) Determine Where New “tiny” Behavior Fits Into Your Life

3) Put New Behavior “AFTER” An Existing Routine

4) Celebrate Performing ‘New Behavior’ Immediately

EXAMPLE: Goal = Exercise Regularly

After I eat dinner (prompt), I will set out my gym clothes (easy new behavior). The anchor moment immediately triggers you to do the new Tiny Behavior –followed by instant (way to feel good) celebratory statement, I Got This!

CHANGE AXIOMS & MINDSETS

William of Occam: Look at the simplest explanation before analyzing the complex

Structural Model: If it fails, it was non-rational

“Butterfly Effect”: Changes on a small scale can influence things on a larger scale

Change: Conflict, Winners/Losers & more Psychological than Logical

In conclusion, the most important phase of creating change is preparation. The second change factor is implementation. And third, evaluate change outcome. Performing new habits doesn’t have to be difficult. Cycles of old habits can be broken and become a nemesis of your past. Build self-confidence by utilizing 4# steps outlined in "Tiny Habits Method". Finally, there is a tool that realistically demonstrates how to replace 'unwanted' behaviors with 'good' behaviors. Remember, life depends on continuity. For this reason, at any given time, individuals experience a state of disequilibrium. However, understanding how to self-assess enables self-success!

Now, let’s get started…What habit do you want to change?


Written by Dr. Cecilia A. Brantley | Argosy University, Chicago Professor | BodyParts Fitness Co-Founder/1992

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