The subject of community involvement might seem like dull stuff until the United States Airmen of Vance AFB get involved. Kimberly Mahoney, College of Liberal Studies student and Security Forces Dispatcher with the U.S. Air Force, proved that the moment she decided to represent the 71st Security Forces Squadron in the annual Feds Feed Families event.

Each year, Vance AFB participates in a project to collect food and water for impoverished families in the small town of Enid, Oklahoma. Base-wide organizations compete to bring in the most food and water for the community, and the totals are calculated and assigned to each organization.

This story is particularly moving for the folks in Enid, of whom more than 15 percent are living below the poverty level. 

The efforts of Mahoney’s squadron resulted in the collection of more than 1,655 pounds of food and water, adding to the base-wide contribution of 7,476.8 pounds. That’s almost a pound of food for every impoverished member of the Enid community.

This achievement, along with work assigned during her Nonprofit Management class, earned Mahoney prestigious distinction as CLS’s Outstanding Senior for 2014-2015. 

So how did the Security Forces Dispatcher get started at CLS?

The Beginning

Mahoney had always known that a formal education in today’s competitive market was an essential part of establishing herself in a stable career. When she was confronted with the high cost of attending school at a major university, however, she decided to face the challenge head-on.

When funding her education became a frightful endeavor, she made the decision to enlist in the U.S. Air Force and apply her benefits toward finishing her education. She then began her search for the right school. It had to be of high caliber and have flexible course offerings to suit her life in the military.

She was pleased to find both qualifications met in CLS.

“Upon being stationed in Oklahoma, I quickly learned that the University of Oklahoma offered the best education in the state,” she said. “The College of Liberal Studies provided me the opportunity to serve my country while earning my college degree online.”

The unique challenge of working active duty for the Air Force and enrolling as a full-time student proved to be no easy task, however. Very quickly, Mahoney taught herself how to apply the fundamentals of balance and priorities. 

“My experience at CLS has made me aware of my own strengths,” she said. “I have learned that I am a driven, capable individual; I set ambitious goals and am typically able to achieve those goals. I have learned that I am a perfectionist, which—when reigned in appropriately—allows me to produce quality results. I anticipate that these attributes will result in my ability to lead committed employees in the future, who are eager to acknowledge the leadership traits that I have learned through my education at OU.”

For Mahoney, earning her degree was the first step toward building a bright and rewarding future. Her efforts to do so no matter the circumstances did not go unnoticed.

Gaining Recognition

Kimberly Mahoney being recognized on field at the Gaylord Family Memorial StadiumIn 2014, CLS administrators were proud to announce Mahoney as the Outstanding Senior for the academic year. She remembers the day fondly as a testament to how hard work pays off.

“I experienced a rush of emotion the day I received my award. I was grateful, and blissful, and immensely proud that the CLS staff felt so strongly about my dedication to my education and my community involvement,” she said. “Above all, I felt a strong sense of relief. Accepting my award confirmed that my school acknowledged my work ethic and determination, two characteristics which I attribute to my mother and father. I was relieved that the CLS staff valued the traits instilled by my parents.”

Mahoney credits her parents with all of her accomplishments—not a small acknowledgement when considering her many achievements.

“Being so far from home, I crave the pride of my mother and father,” she said. “The opportunity to apply for the Outstanding Senior award was enough to invoke a sense of pride among my family; actually winning the award provided me with a level of gratification that I never could have dreamed of from my parents.”

Mahoney was quick to offer words of encouragement to students entering the program, as well. 

“My ambition to excel pushed me to achieve my goals despite the challenges I faced,” she said. “Though the workload I carried for years was cumbersome, I would never dream of abandoning the success I have achieved at OU, nor the success I anticipate my education will bring my future.”

If the past is any indicator of the future, Kimberly Mahoney will be more than ready for the opportunity to make a difference in her community.

Mary Wuestewald
Mary Wuestewald specializes in digital and content marketing at OU Outreach. In 2015, she earned a master's degree in Strategic Communication from OU’s College of Journalism and Mass Communication. She currently contributes to Insight magazine, the CLS blog and CLS social media efforts.

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