For most people life is never easy, and that couldn’t be truer than for CLS graduate Penn Little.
“I began at OU as an undergrad in fall 2002 after graduating from Culver Military Academy. As a struggling drug addict, alcoholic, and compulsive gambler, I left the university in 2006 unable to function as a student. It was only till I hit rock bottom in 2008 that I started to find a road back and sought the help that I truly needed. It wasn’t an easy road for me. I had struggled with addiction for years and that, compounded with a serious compulsive gambling problem, led me to a treacherous rock bottom amidst serious legal and moral consequences. I sought treatment in 2008 at Hazelden Foundation and the Prescott House rehabilitation center and, after a year sober, I found a great deal of solace in helping others. I knew that at some point this would be a very large part of my life.”
Accountability and Consequences
Unfortunately, Little’s recovery came too late and the legal system caught up with him.
“My past behaviors necessitated amends to family, friends, associates, and society and at the beginning of 2010 I was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for my behavior. I knew I would have to pay the consequences for my actions and willingly did so. I reported on May 14, 2010, to the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Worth and began to plan for my life in incarceration.”
After entering the federal penitentiary, Little completed a 500-hour, nine-month, residential drug abuse program and earned a six-month reduction in his sentence, as well as six months service in the community corrections module.
“I attained two jobs at the institution as a morning compound worker and a GED tutor. I began to find satisfaction and purpose in helping others and in February 2011, I spoke with Dayton Turberville, the executive director of Prescott House rehabilitation center, regarding my plans for release to his organization that summer. He offered me the opportunity to work at the Prescott House and I graciously accepted and began to plan my life after my incarceration.”
A New Beginning
In July 2011, Little celebrated three years sober and was released in August 2011 and flew back to Arizona to start his new life working at the Prescott House.
“Through the encouragement of my friends, family, and staff at Prescott House, I felt it was time to return to finish my degree and I wanted to finish it at the University of Oklahoma. So I contacted CLS and was readmitted to the university after a rigorous process of proving I was ready. I made it my goal to have my bachelor’s degree in one year.
“I had a great deal of shame about leaving school. However, as I look back, I realize I was not able to function at that point in my life. Mr. Turberville sat down with me and talked to me about just walking through the fear or ‘breaking through that wall,’ bearing down, doing the work, and finishing.”
Success through a CLS Education
While earning his undergraduate degree with CLS, Little was rapidly promoted to the director of business development for Prescott House, Inc., overseeing the national marketing and development agenda for the well established and recognized treatment center.
“Earning the President’s Honor Roll for a 4.0 GPA in all of my CLS coursework made me realize I was capable of accomplishing something and doing it well. Five years ago I had little self-esteem but my education accomplishments have showed me so much.”
But in Little’s perspective, his success doesn’t end with graduation from CLS. “I am part of a wonderful community of OU alumni and I earned admittance to one of the best graduate business programs in the country at the University of Arizona.”
After spending time in a federal prison and overcoming gambling and drug addictions, Little has persevered, graduating from CLS in 2013 and is now pursuing an MBA from the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management.
Update: The College of Liberal Studies was renamed the College of Professional and Continuing Studies in 2017.