Kylia Byyassee, 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.
Byyassee face 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,” Byyassee 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.”
Byyassee 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,” said KayTee Niquette, Work Prep and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families coordinator at the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education. “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.