Think life has handed you setbacks too large to overcome? Try telling that to DeWayne Sexton. Losing a mother as a child. Being separated from his siblings growing up. Reuniting only to have his brothers be killed shortly after. Joining the military and losing many close friends in battle. Losing his last remaining brother to a drunk driver. Being diagnosed with cancer. Feeling too old and too lost and too worthless. DeWayne has seemingly been through it all – and has somehow weathered all these struggles to do remarkable things.
One of those remarkable things is being named our 2017 Student of the Year. We couldn’t be more thrilled to give him this honor. To say that DeWayne is deserving is a tremendous understatement. Here’s DeWayne’s story of struggle and finding purpose throughout these setbacks, in his own words:
My name is DeWayne Sexton.
I now reside in West Bend, Wisconsin. I have lived all over the world thanks to my 21 years in the service. My life has had many obstacles in it and, yet, I have chosen to consistently stay positive no matter what happens.
I came to Moraine Park to get an electricity technical diploma, which I needed to keep from hurting myself as a maintenance mechanic in 2013-2014. It was at this time where I was approached by Melanie Schroeder to join student government. Just like every student, I was quiet and reserved, not wanting to get too involved, but that soon changed when I realized that people would listen to what I had to say. I couldn’t wait to comeback the following year to try and earn my business degree in management and supervision.
Over that summer I wanted this degree to have a purpose and meaning to it, so I decided to take on this new challenge and honor my family and the men that I served with whose lives were cut short for different reasons.
There will be some who won’t understand this goal that I wanted to achieve. I started telling my story how I lost my mother at three and a half years old, I lived in an orphanage while three of my siblings were placed with an aunt and uncle and two were placed in foster care.
We were finally reunited after several years; for a little over a year, we were very happy and then my two older brothers were killed. I had wished it would have been me, for no one would miss me – I was nine years old when I came to this conclusion, and it would be years later before I would realize what my true purpose in life would be.
I joined the Marine Corps in 1979, where I found family that I could relate to. This too would cause me pain, for I would lose 241 of my brothers in Beirut, Then later in 1985 I lost my last brother to a drunk driver.
I was lost.
I met my wife that same year and after 6 months we were married and have been for the past 31 years. My son is one of my greatest accomplishments, for he is everything I wanted to be. When he walks into a room it brightens with his great personality and smile.
Every time I have told this story I would shed tears, because it was so painful, but I realized that it inspired others to want to do more with their lives. I also realized that slowly over time the tears became less and less and I was slowly starting to heal.
Last year I was diagnosed with cancer and when I had to tell the people that I had come to know about it, there was something else I realized – I had found family. They shed tears with me, and it pained me to see them suffer watching me struggle. They gave me hope and inspiration to want to fight even harder to fulfill my goal.
I continued to help others, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, watching families smile knowing that they would soon be living their dream. What a great feeling, I also wanted to bring awareness to veteran suicide; after reading about project 22, I knew that I needed to get involved in this worthy cause. I had help from Melanie and her connections to bring this to all three campuses. I shared my story one last time. After the showing the movie I had several students and faculty thank me for doing this.
So you see my time at Moraine Park was not wasted, I took advantage of every opportunity to change the lives of others and in the end heal myself with my newfound family.
This award – the Student of the Year Award – shows me that all of my efforts to keep the stories of the ones I wanted to honor alive was well worth the pain that I suffered at such an early age. If it wasn’t for them, I could not have accomplished all that I have at this wonderful institution. So I humbly say thank you to my Moraine Park family for showing me that I would be missed.
My purpose in life is very apparent, I want to help others heal and show them that no matter what life throws at you , there is always the opportunity to find a positive outcome in a negative world.
To learn more about Moraine Park Technical College, visit morainepark.edu.