Ashford CHAMPion Award
Student Community Standards and Student Development and Engagement want to recognize Ashford University students who uphold the values of integrity, fairness, respect, responsibility, and community. The Ashford CHAMPion Award will be presented to the student or students who best exhibit Ashford University’s high community standards. This quarter’s award goes to Shontina Caudle.
With a widowed, disabled parent, Shontina’s hurdles growing up were only the beginning. As a proud wife and mother of four, Shontina found out her son was born with a cleft lip and palate soon after starting with Ashford. To repair the condition, Shontina had to drive her infant son an hour away to undergo four separate surgeries. With each surgery, Shontina put her degree on hold for weeks at a time to care for her son.
These setbacks challenged Shontina, but her family received a gift that changed their lives. Cleft Kids, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families dealing with a cleft lip and palate, sent Shontina a care package in 2013. The care package included a sleeper outfit, stuffed animals, and reading material to help educate and empathize with her situation. Shontina’s son is now at 100%, but Shontina was so touched that she decided to pay back the care she had been offered with her own time and effort.
In 2014, Cleft Kids, Inc. founder Tanya Newman asked Shontina to become an integral part of the organization by handling their social media efforts, process incoming emails, and build their website. Most importantly, Shontina personally handles the Cleft Care Packages, just like the one she received for her son. Shontina provides the personal touch by stitching a matching cleft scar on the stuffed animals before sending them to families.
Shontina’s efforts to help families dealing with this condition did not stop with Cleft Kids. Shontina also contributed to the book I Wish I’d I Known How Much I’d Love You. The author of the book, Julie Cwir, personally asked Shontina to help her complete the book and considers Shontina a friend and the type of person who will always help when needed.
Shontina takes no credit for her accomplishments, but acknowledges, “It was very hard to finish, but my desire to finish overrode the difficulties.” With her son as her inspiration, and because of the convenience of Ashford’s learning platform, Shontina found what it meant to give back to the community and developed a sense of resiliency to push her to finish. In 2014, Shontina became the first college graduate in her family by earning her Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education from Ashford University.
Despite the circumstances, Shontina made the most of her opportunities and turned troubling times into an inspirational story. Because Shontina exhibited the shared values of community, integrity, respect, responsibility, and fairness, we are proud to call her our Ashford CHAMPion.