Spotlights

Mired in a home with no electricity, running water or indoor plumbing, Lydia Razo had heard her husband say that she was just a workhorse. She felt trapped in the bottom of a dark pit. For the final seven years of her 24-year marriage to an abusive and controlling man, Razo searched for a way out for her and her five children. “He hurt me and my children in many ways, but eventually I decided to leave him,” she said, “It wasn't easy, but he finally left a hole where I managed to slip out and get away.” In 2001 at age 51, Razo discovered it’s not too late. After getting help from a shelter for battered and abused women, Razo started her life in the sun. To support herself, she cleaned houses. “I was gathering aches, then started to get educated in a class about battered and abused women, I realized what happened to me. They told me, ‘You need an education to give you the confidence to be more than an ache gatherer,’” she said. “I had very poor self-esteem, I was constantly beaten down.” A new friend encouraged her that it wasn’t too late, that she could go to school.
Thirty minutes into his first day as a bank teller, as Daniel Peek helped his first customer, the front doors flew open and in ran a masked man. “It looked like he was holding a camera at first, but then I realized it was a gun covered up with a bag,” the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith junior criminal justice major said. When the armed man pushed Peek’s customer up against the wall, Peek realized it was not a drill. It was a robbery.   The man ran to the counter and pulled up his white ski mask, revealing his face to Peek and the security cameras. “Give me $5,000 in one dollar bills,” the man yelled at Peek. Peek grabbed all of the moneyin his drawer, including some bait money, which can be traced in the event of a robbery, and put it in a burlap sack. Though it didn’t have $5,000 in one dollar bills, Peek handed the bag to the man, who ran out the front door and around to the back of the building, disappearing into an alley.
At age five, Marissa Moore decided that she was going to be just like her uncle as she watched him clean teeth. UAFS brings Moore a step closer to her goal, as it is one of the only schools in the area to offer a degree in dental hygiene.  “I’ve known what I wanted to do since I was five. I haven’t changed my mind once,” Moore said. And when Moore has a goal in her sights, she cannot be stopped. That resolve was one of the reasons she was selected as the first recipient of the $1,000 UAFS Alumni Legacy Scholarship.  “She has an incredible drive, ambition and determination. She will go far,” said Alumni Affairs Director Rick Goins. The Alumni Advisory Council established the scholarship as an opportunity for family members of alumni to attend the university. The scholarship has been set up to assist a child, parent, spouse or sibling of a UAFS graduate or a former student who passed 14 credit hours from Fort Smith Junior College, Westark Junior College, Westark Community College or Westark College. When looking for a university to attend, Moore, who grew up on a cattle ranch in Mulberry, chose UAFS.
Lela Nickell, ’84, sat back in her seat at the Stubblefield Center with tears streaming down her face. “I didn’t realize how much I wanted it until then,” she said. As she watched the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith students cross the stage and graduate, Nickell knew she wanted her bachelor’s degree. She told her husband that watching them made her want to go back to school. He reminded her that she couldn’t quit her job.
Leanna Zimmerman, ’15, planned to start her job hunt closer to graduation in May, but an ordinary day of waitressing gave her a head start. Zimmerman worked for three and a half years as a waitress at Chili’s while studying marketing at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith. She went to work that November day that seemed like any other when she served a table that would start her professional career.