Barton Fort Riley grad rebuilds life with education; more than 100 walk at Fort Riley commencement

May 25, 2017
Story and photos by Brandon Steinert

It’s darkest before dawn; this is the message of hope Janet David wants to spread with her recent achievement as a Barton Community College graduate. She shared her story with a crowd of her peers at a small ceremony celebrating inductees to two honor societies, Alpha Sigma Lambda and Phi Theta Kappa on Wednesday morning at Fort Riley.

More than a decade ago David, only 18 at the time, hit rock bottom. She screamed for help as she ran from her boyfriend, the father of their infant daughter who had recently been diagnosed with an illness requiring a kidney transplant. Her boyfriend was trying to kill them both in the dim early hours of the morning in a rough part of Dallas. She fled to the nearest convenience store and managed to yell “call the cops” to a store clerk before her attacker caught up.

“If you call the cops, it will be more than her dead body they’ll be picking up,” she recalled hearing before being dragged back into a park where she endured about six hours of physical abuse as he repeatedly attempted to end her life.

Little did David know, that day was the climax and turning point in what had been a rapid deterioration of her life situation. The events leading up to that moment included the recollection of sexual abuse by her father and fights with her mother and family that led to a period of homelessness as a pregnant teenage high-school dropout. Rock bottom.

But David survived. She woke up with the sun next to her unconscious attacker and mustered the strength to stand and flag down a police officer in a patrol car. When she was well again, she sought help at a local women’s shelter, where she learned about abuse, that it’s not okay or normal, and found new hope for her future through education.

After a stint at the shelter, she said she gave herself a pep talk and marched back to her high school where they reviewed her transcript and allowed her to return. David graduated with honors.

The receipt of her diploma was the first in a domino chain of events and self improvement efforts that put her on her present course. With a Barton associate degree in hand, she plans to graduate with her bachelor’s degree in financial management next May from Upper Iowa University, which will allow her to give back to women’s shelters, teaching women how to be financially independent so they can break free of abusive situations.

David is married to her “knight in shining armor,” a Soldier who is presently deployed, and has two healthy young boys.

Her daughter survived her illness, despite projections from doctors that she would likely not live to her first birthday. Due to David’s circumstances at the time, she chose to allow a family that had supported her during difficult times to adopt her child.

“She has a mom and a dad and a family, and I didn’t have that to offer her at the time,” David said, wiping away a tear. “That family is giving her strength and helping her to thrive and live.”

David, the first of her family to receive a college degree, said she is now grounded firmly in each moment of her life.

“I try to avoid self-sabotaging my here and now with my past, with my struggles and hardships,” she said. “Believe me when I tell you there is a great life to live that is full of amazing opportunities just waiting for you every day.”

More than 100 Barton graduates walk at Fort Riley commencement

Along with the other consortium schools, Barton Community College at Fort Riley celebrated the graduation of 134 of its own students on Thursday at the Hilton Garden Inn in Manhattan. Of those graduating, nearly 110 chose to walk, with some active duty soldiers who were deployed and could not participate.

Barton also held an Honors Ceremony for students in the Alpha Sigma Lambda Honor Fraternity on Wednesday prior to commencement, which recognizes non-traditional students who maintain a 3.5 GPA and have completed at least 24 credit-hours. The fraternity celebrates the many challenges faced by non-traditional students, who have to juggle family, work and school to achieve their educational goals.

Barton also honored members of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, which recognizes students who carry a 3.5 GPA and are enrolled in at least 12 credit-hours.

Janet David
Barton graduate Janet David poses for a photo in the Main Post Chapel at Fort Riley following the PTK and ASK recognition ceremony Wednesday afternoon. David was recognized by both organizations for being a nontraditional student with a 3.5 or higher GPA.