OSU-OKC student targets degree after turning life around
Stormy Poe battled addiction, arrests, lost custody of daughter; now on path to college education
OKLAHOMA CITY (March 26, 2020) – Growing up in western Oklahoma, Stormy Poe learned to hate school. She attended a dozen different schools by the time she dropped out in eighth grade.
“I never finished school where I started,” Poe said. “I was very distracted all the time. I had a lot going on at home that I carried with me.”
When each new school year approached, her grandmother would take her shopping for a backpack and supplies.
“I would be super excited,” Poe said. However, that feeling soon turned to disappointment. “I would feel like I didn’t belong there.”
After seventh grade, she gave up on school and started using meth.
It was a rocky beginning to an educational journey, but it wasn’t the end. Poe reluctantly dipped her toe back in the water last fall by taking the Student Success Strategies course at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City.
“I fell in love with it,” said Poe, 22, who lives and works in Oklahoma City. Now she is making A’s and B’s as a business management student at OSU-OKC.
“It’s wonderful and has been an amazing experience,” she said. “The people are so supportive.”
She plans to graduate with her associate degree in 2023 and then pursue a bachelor’s degree in nonprofit management or criminal justice reform.
The passion for those career areas grew from her life experiences.
During her teen years, Poe suffered from addiction – Xanax being her drug of choice – and worked in jobs she is not proud of to support her grandmother and her infant daughter. Soon after her 18th birthday, her grandmother died and she moved to Oklahoma City.
Poe said she was arrested a half-dozen times for drug possession and trafficking, and lost custody of her 1-year-old daughter.
At 20, Poe entered the ReMerge Oklahoma program. ReMerge provides a holistic alternative to incarceration for pregnant women and mothers convicted of nonviolent offenses. It offers treatment and rehabilitation, as well as help with life skills, stable housing, employment, education and healthcare.
The two-year program is intensive and structured to help women become and stay sober and stable, said Jennie Tucker, who was Poe’s care coordinator.
Tucker said Poe was incredibly mature for her age and took full advantage of the program.
“Stormy made every right choice,” she said.
“My experience with ReMerge was great,” Poe said.
During the program, she regained custody of her daughter – Jerzie, who is 4 – and transitioned to housing she could afford with the help of HopeHouse OKC, which partners with ReMerge.
And she was hired to work at The Mettise Group by co-founder Sherry Dale, a member of the ReMerge board of directors. Poe is operations manager at the business management consultant firm.
“I’m getting to take my schoolwork to work because it applies,” said Poe, adding Mettise paid for a tutor to help her with Excel in her Mircosoft Windows course. “I have a huge support system.”
When Poe graduated from ReMerge in October, OSU-OKC President Brad Williams was the keynote speaker.
“Stormy is an amazing human being,” Williams said. “She inspires me to think constantly of new ways to help people who are ready to take the next step in their life’s journey.
“Life is tricky in that not everyone has access to someone who can help illuminate the best path forward. We see the best in people, and want to be part of their success story.”
OSU-OKC offers all ReMerge graduates the Student Success Strategies course for free and a scholarship if they choose to take additional courses. The college also gave Poe and each of her fellow graduates a laptop purchased through a grant the college received.
With the help of ReMerge and OSU-OKC, Poe is on her way to her career goal of working with people in prison as they prepare for a better life on the outside.
“A lot of people don’t know who to reach out to or have the resources they need,” Poe said. She feels fortunate to have been given so much support from so many people and agencies.
“If you choose to take every opportunity given to you, you can’t lose,” she said.
Tucker said Poe is bound for success.
“She is innately driven and determined, but she didn’t have direction to know how to channel that in a healthy way,” Tucker said. “Her stamina will carry her so far.”
For media inquiries: Nick Trougakos, OSU-OKC – firstname.lastname@example.org – (405) 945-9196
About Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City
Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City (OSU-OKC) is part of the modern land-grant system of Oklahoma State University. OSU-OKC is a two-year public institution, offering more than 40 degrees and certificate options. Through quality education, a supportive environment, leadership training and service opportunities, OSU-OKC trains students to work and educates them to lead. OSU-OKC graduates are found throughout the community serving as police officers, firefighters, nurses, teachers, healthcare professionals and business owners. More information is available at www.osuokc.edu.
Nonprofit organizations and the vulnerable populations they serve have been hit hard by the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.
One of those groups is Remerge, a diversion program for mothers. In place of prison time, the organization offers program time. Terri Woodland, executive director of Remerge, said the lack of in-person interaction as leaders try to curb the spread of the virus has been a difficult change.
"I think the thing that's most difficult for us is the lack of being able to see them face-to-face and contact them and support," Woodland said.
The coronavirus has shut down Remerge's standard operating procedures, which is all about in-person support via classes, counseling and even visits from the Department of Human Services. That's now a no-go.
"We would have visits here face-to-face so moms could connect," Woodland said.
Remerge allows the women in the program to be at its facility instead of jail. It's serious business, and the pandemic puts them at risk, as social distancing can feel like disconnecting.
"The stress, but also dealing with addiction, struggling with mental health, it's risky for our moms," Woodland said.
But so far so good, as the team and mothers are adjusting through daily check-ins over the phone and video. Remerge also makes sure the mothers have the necessary items at home to get by.
"Just trying to do the best we can with the situation given our moms are in the community, in their homes," Woodland said.
The organization works to keep the goal of graduation at the forefront. If the women complete the program, not only will they successfully avoid jail time but their charges will be dropped.
As concerns about COVID-19 increase, ReMerge has made the decision to postpone our Building Dedication and Grand Opening that was originally scheduled for March 27, 2020.
In the interest of keeping our community safe and healthy, we will be cancelling and rescheduling this event. We can't wait to celebrate our new facility and will share a new date for this event soon. Please check our website (www.remergeok.org) and social media platforms (@ReMergeOklahoma) for additional information and updates.
If you have questions or need more information please contact Rose Faherty, Community Relations Manager, at email@example.com or 405-208-7206.