Perseverance, hard work pays off for Kylia Byassee
Kylia Byassee, an Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology graduate, recently received the Outstanding Student/Graduate Award from the Oklahoma Career and Technical Education Equity Council.
She was one of 12 Oklahomans honored, along with four businesses and organizations, at the 27th annual Making It Work Day at the Capitol in a virtual ceremony April 30. Making It Work Day recognizes individuals who are committed to removing barriers to success for single-parent families by providing educational experiences for students beyond the classroom. The ceremony also recognized nontraditional students.
Byassee faced addiction and legal issues and lost her children for a time, she said. When they came home, she added, she wanted to set the best example she could for them, so she worked hard and earned her high school equivalency.
She then enrolled in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act program and began studying at OSUIT. She graduated with honors in April 2020 and obtained a job as a peer recovery support specialist at CREOKS Behavioral Health.
“This position allowed me to work with families who suffered from substance abuse issues,” Byassee said. “I went from a place where I needed help and struggled every day to someone who has nine years clean and can help others who are still suffering from addiction.”
Byassee recently began working on a bachelor’s degree at Northeastern State University.
She was nominated for the award by Fran Colombin, director of adult basic education and M-POWER at OSUIT, and Katie Quillin, M-POWER job developer and instructor.
OkCTEEC is affiliated with the administrative division of the Oklahoma Association of Career and Technology Education. The council advocates for students pursuing nontraditional careers and for resources for educating single parents.
“The Making It Work Day ceremony is such an important part of OkCTEEC as it publicly acknowledges those students, programs and business partners that have done an outstanding job meeting their career goals,” KayTee Niquette, Work Prep and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families coordinator at the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, said. “The event this year is even more important, as we have persevered through a pandemic and still have individuals who have excelled.”
She serves as an adviser for OkCTEEC, along with Lisa French of the Department of Human Services and Gina McPherson of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.
The COVID-19 pandemic created challenges, said Lisa D. Brown, OkCTEEC president and director for career transitions at Oklahoma City Community College, but students, faculty, staff and community partners met the challenges head-on, redesigning traditional methods of assistance and education.
“These students have persevered through the many changes in their pursuit of their goals and even some events in their own families,” she said. “In addition to their academic success, they have strengthened even more skills in communication, collaboration, adaptation and endurance that will be of great benefit as valuable life skills they will never forget they developed or discovered they had.”
OkCTEEC’s purposes include promoting and supporting career and technology education, increasing its effectiveness, promoting research in the field and in educational equity, developing leadership and advocating for equity and diversity.
Here is Byassee’s submission that enabled her to win the award:
Growing up I did not have the happiest childhood. During that time, I lost two siblings; this devastating tragedy rocked our family. After that, life was very unstable and a little all over the place.
During that time, I bounced around a lot from family member to family member, and faced my own fair share of traumatic events.
I believe all of these events lead me to be more susceptible to becoming an addict. From the time I was a young teenager, I struggled with addiction. I found out that I was pregnant at the age of 17 and dropped out of school. With little ambition or goals, I did not return to school. After the birth of my son, I returned to substance abuse which lead me down a long and dark path. Several years later, and after the birth of my third child, I found myself face to face with my worst nightmare - I lost my children and was facing some pretty serious legal issues - all because of my drug addiction.
I felt like this was the worst thing that could possibly happen to a person. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong! Because of this situation, I went through Family Drug Court and found the courage to fight for myself and my children. I found an awesome recovery program and was able to hold on to some “clean” time.
My kids did come home after almost a year of being away from me; this year felt like an eternity. After they came home, I wanted to do more...l wanted to be more for them and set the best example for them that I could.
I reached out to the local OSUIT GED program for help. I worked diligently with Mrs. Colombin and was able to get my GED in no time at all. I was unsure where to go from there, Mrs. Colombin told me about a wonderful program that helped students go to college or find employment. This was the WIOA Program (Workforce Innovative Opportunity Assistance). I did not think I would be a successful college student, but she introduced me to Katie Quillin, The WIOA Adult and Dislocated Worker Career Manager, who enrolled me in the program. With a little encouragement from both of them, I found myself applying for entrance into OSUIT. Again, I was able to do something I never thought I would be capable of.
With a lot of hard work, not only did I graduate, but I graduated with honors in April, 2020.
Shortly after graduation, I applied for several jobs - the most amazing opportunity presented itself. I was offered a job through a local Behavioral Substance Abuse Program as a PRSS (Peer Recovery Support Specialist). This position allowed me to work with families who suffered from substance abuse issues. I went from a place where I needed help and struggled every day, to someone who has nine years “clean” and can help others who are still suffering from addiction.
It truly sounds like a fairytale. I never would have imagined I could be in such a stable place in my life I recently started working on my Bachelor’s degree at Northeastern State University. I have had so many heart breaks and struggles in my life, but now I see that these obstacles only made me a stronger person.
Because of my struggles and perseverance, I am now an awesome mother to four beautiful children.
I have learned how to be a supportive wife, an asset to my community, a dependable employee, and a super college student. I want to thank OSUIT, GED, and WIOA for giving me a hand up to bettering myself.
-Kylia Byassee Okmulgee, OK