Family's first college graduate takes a second chance 

  Tuesday, May 8, 2018 8:00 AM
  People and Society, News, Academics

Pittsburg, KS

Erica Hamm-Clark

When Erica Hamm-Clark graduated from Mound City High School, she immediately entered the workforce. 

"I just didn't think college was an option for me either financially or academically," she said. "No one else in my family had ever gone." 

This week, 29-year-old Hamm-Clark will graduate with a degree from Pittsburg State's College of Education and on Monday was recognized with the Delta Kappa Gamma/Lyla Vaughn Award for her achievements. 

Hamm-Clark, a Ft. Scott resident who worked as an eye technician for several years, recalled turning 25 and questioning her future. 

"I have two children of my own at home, and I just kept wondering what I wanted to do for the rest of my life," she said. "So, I decided to go to college."  

She drew inspiration from her childhood, during which she moved a lot and was an at-risk student. 

"I had many teachers, and it was easy to see the ones who didn't connect and the ones who did," she said. "The ones who did really had an impact." 

With that, her course was set: She would pursue a degree in secondary education and become a high school English teacher. 

"I went straight to Pitt State. Living in this area, everyone has nothing but praise about the education program here. In my mind, there was no other option." 

Her employer, Dr. Gregory Quinlan, allowed her the opportunity to leave work and go to class, and faculty members didn't mind her bringing her children to class in a pinch. 

"All of my professors were great, especially in the English Department — Dr. Franklin, Dr. Morgan, Dr. McCallum, Dr. Carlson — they really pushed me," she said. "And something that has always stuck with me, that they stressed in the College of Ed, is building relationships with kids. You can't teach them without building a relationship. Figuring out what works for which students — that will always stick with me." 

This semester Hamm-Clark put that into practice during student teaching in Nevada, Missouri, and this fall has a job already lined up at Ft. Scott High School. When she purchases supplies for her new classroom, she'll be able to use award money she received this week. 

"There's not one thing I regret," Hamm-Clark said, "except to have done it earlier." 

Learn more about the College of Education at