We’re celebrating our military-connected students during November’s National Military Family Month.
It was really the Marine uniform that did it for Lemeka Butler.
“I knew I didn’t want to go to college after high school, so when I saw the Marine Corps uniform, I was hooked,” she said. “I did whatever it took join.”
An athlete in high school, it wasn’t tough for her to meet the rigorous physical demands of the Corps. So, in 1996, she enlisted and made E-5 before getting out in October 2004. Along the way, she managed to have two children – while she was an administrative clerk and Marine Drill Instructor – and start an exercise science associate’s degree program, with her eye toward a bachelor’s degree in business.
“When I took a TROY psychology class, it completely changed my mind set so I changed my degree,” she said.
Born in Leavenworth, Kansas and reared in St. Joseph, Missouri, Butler now has her sights set on helping others through the Veterans Affairs Hospital, a women’s group and military school counseling armed with a Master of Science in Psychology. She completed the bachelor’s degree in 2018.
She said that her college career, however, has been spurred on by a series of mentors including Navy veteran Ira Wenze, who encouraged her to get started on a degree, and Dr. Sharon Thompson, an assistant professor in Counseling, Rehabilitation and Interpreter Training.
“Dr. Thompson was one of my first instructors . . . and she encouraged me to continue into my master’s degree — she ended up being my academic advisor. She sets a high example as a role model and spreads her knowledge within our community,” Butler said.
Butler, who wants to pursue working in children’s counseling, team mentorship, veterans, and sex and labor trafficking recovery, expects to complete her master’s degree in 2021. She’s taken online classes and in-person classes at the Pensacola site.
“The students and staff are amazing. We work as a team and everyone matters,” she said.
“They used to call me ‘Turbo Fit Girl’ during my exercise science degree and B.S. degree. I also taught a lot of kickboxing classes, but now that I’ve worked my way up to almost graduating with my master’s degree my new name is ‘Miss Meka Empowerment’,” Butler said. “The world is full of broken hearts and it breaks my heart to see others suffer, but the Lord has put me here to help as many as possible. It is all because of TROY students and staff said I could.”