“I Had a Ton of Emotions”: Online Degree Leads New Mom to Commencement
by Deborah Laker
In the Mabee Center on the afternoon of May 4, 2019, a five-year-old girl raised her eyes to her mother, who was dressed in a black robe and cap, and joyfully said, “Mommy, you graduated from school!”
With tears in her eyes, the mother responded, “I did!” as she held up the Bachelor of Science diploma she had just received.
Javana Middlebrook was one of the 780 students who graduated from Oral Roberts University in 2019, but unlike most of the graduates, she is also a wife and mother of five who had completed her studies online.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” Middlebrook remembers thinking as she walked across the stage to receive her diploma. “I’m setting the standard for my kids. They’re going to remember this and they’re going to shoot for the same goals.”
Back in 2011, Middlebrook was an on-campus nursing student at ORU before deciding to start a family and move back to her native Texas. After giving birth to her first child, Sarai, she decided to continue her studies online, pursuing a degree in Business Administration. She and husband Rahim grew their family to five children: Sarai, Joshua, Judah, and newborn twins Christina and Naomi. Middlebrook juggled being a wife and mother while working a full-time retail job and taking online classes.
“As a manager at Target there were times I had to be at work at 4 am,” Middlebrook said. “During my hour-long lunch breaks, I would try to get work done by reading a textbook or taking a quiz.”
After work, she would return home to make dinner and put the kids to bed before resuming her studies. The 26-year-old recalls nights when she would be awake until 3 am working on school assignments.
Regardless of her hectic schedule, Middlebrook also remained involved at her local church by attending services throughout the week and volunteering to clean the sanctuary some mornings.
Middlebrook appreciates ORU’s professors for creating interactive online classes; it is uncommonly easy for students to get lost when studying independently. The collaborative nature of the classes extended beyond her professors, however; Middlebrook received supportive emails from her fellow students about completing the course work.
“They’re amazing,” Middlebrook said when asked about the online department’s administration and advisors. “They’ve always loved me and encouraged me. If I didn’t have them, I do not think I would have continued, because there were times when I wanted to quit.”
Middlebrook’s challenges haven’t always been routine, either. Last year during her pregnancy with the twins, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, opting to undergo surgery after her delivery, resulting in the procedure being scheduled for two weeks after her graduation. She is still undergoing treatment.
Nevertheless, her entire family flew to Tulsa to support her at the Commencement exercises.
“I was super-excited but also super-nervous about other parts of my life, so I had a ton of emotions.”
Middlebrook believes her story is a testimony that will encourage others to “acknowledge God in all they do, for His promises are never failing.”