Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Veteran from Pasco passes life's tests to earn degree

NEW PORT RICHEY — It's been a long and winding road for Richard Sikes, one that's not been short of challenges and adversity.

In 1996, Sikes was a high school dropout who had few future prospects. But he went to night school and passed the GED test — then shocked his family by enlisting in the Army.

He served in Iraq for a year before being medically discharged for an injury from basic training. And just when he was embarking on another chapter as college student, Sikes found himself dealing with the devastating diagnosis of a brain tumor.

It literally stopped him in his tracks. But not for long.

Tonight, Sikes, who is now 31 and living in Port Richey, will proudly don his first cap and gown to collect his associate of arts degree at Pasco-Hernando Community College's winter commencement ceremony. He will be one of 300 honored and among nearly 900 who have earned a certificate of completion or two-year degree during the summer and winter semesters.

"I'm very proud of him," said his mom, Yolanda Berry. "If you had told me he would be doing this 10 years ago, I would have laughed at you because he was going nowhere."

Now, said Sikes, "I'll be the first person in my family to graduate from college."

Sikes credits his turnaround to his support from friends and family — and his own change in attitude.

"I wouldn't be here if it weren't for them," he said.

The biggest challenge came last year, when doctors told Sikes he had a tumor the size of a quarter on his pituitary gland.

"It was pretty difficult at first to even really comprehend what it meant," Sikes said. "It was causing problems visually and mentally with my thought process with the pressure on my brain. It was affecting my hormones."

Fortunately, the tumor was benign, though the illness put a damper on Sikes' plans to graduate early. Even so, he made a remarkable recovery after the tumor was removed Oct. 4 at James A. Haley VA Medical Center. He was back in school Jan. 5.

"He had to drop out that semester but he made a fabulous recovery," said his mom. "He went back to school and it's been awards for this, awards for that ever since. It's been fabulous."

Sikes was named to the National Dean's List and was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. He also traveled to Europe to study student diplomacy and international relations through the Scholar Laureate Program after a good friend from the Masonic Lodge helped pay his expenses.

Now Sikes plans to take a semester off to work full time to help his mom financially while she takes some college courses at PHCC. Eventually, he says, he plans to return to school, perhaps in Florida or maybe even at his dream school: the University of North Carolina.

"I grew up in North Carolina. That's pretty much where I was raised," he said. "I have a real special connection to North Carolina."

As for the more distant future, Sikes said he's contemplating becoming a teacher.

"I'm lucky — I'm blessed," he said. "And I'm fortunate because I have gone through a lot of things and overcome a lot of obstacles. For me, personally, every challenge that I meet now is an opportunity to better myself. I'm very happy where I'm at but I'm not completely satisfied. I know I can do better and that's what I'm going to strive for — that's my goal."

Veteran from Pasco passes life's tests to earn degree 12/15/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 2:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas deputy in trouble for social media boast: 'Nothing like almost shooting someone'

    Public Safety

    LARGO — A Pinellas County Sheriff's deputy is under investigation after a photo that shows him boasting about almost shooting someone made the rounds on social media.

    A Pinellas County Sheriff's deputy is under investigation after a photo that shows him boasting about almost shooting someone made the rounds on social media. Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Spencer Gross on Thursday confirmed deputy Austen Callus' employment and said the agency is "aware of the social media post." [Facebook'
  2. ReliaQuest's benevolent hackers try to make companies more secure

    Corporate

    TAMPA — Their goal is to get in. Past a security desk, through a firewall, into a system they shouldn't have access to. Sometimes they'll look like a regular person in the lobby who innocently forgot their access badge. Most times they won't be seen at all, remotely and quietly prodding a company's systems from a …

    Angelo Castellano of Tampa works at his desk at ReliaQuest | | [CHARLIE KAIJO, Times]
  3. Watch the trailer for 'Mini Lights,' based on St. Petersburg's frightening urban legend

    Blogs

    Perhaps you've heard of the "mini lights." The tales can vary a bit, but generally, they're said to be nasty little creatures controlled by a witch that once lived near Booker Creek. They come out after dark to "get you."

    A scene from the proof of concept trailer for a mini lights movie.
  4. Democratic ad: Adam Putnam is 'silent' on GOP health bill

    Blogs

    Democrats are trying to attach Adam Putnam to the GOP’s unpopular plans to replace Obamacare.

  5. Competition and uncertainty keep New Port Richey's Steve Miklos hooked on power boat racing

    Outdoors

    HOLIDAY — If Steve Miklos could have it his way, every power boat race would take place in rough water. He finds the turbulent conditions calming, an attitude he's developed during a professional power boat racing career that spans hundreds of races dating back to 1991.

    Steve Miklos, the throttle man and owner of the No. 51 Sun Print Racing boat, poses at his shop in Holiday. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]