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Deondra Parks Recognized as Ashford University's Outstanding Alum of the Month
Inspiring story of overcoming hardship culminates in bachelor's degree from Ashford
June Alum of the Month Deondra Parks

Deondra Parks, who has been named Ashford University’s Outstanding Alum of the Month, always saw her degree as an opportunity to change the world. While serving in the Air Force, she began studying to become a medic and was eager to find solutions to global health challenges. She hoped that a Bachelor’s degree in Health Care Studies from Ashford University would help her achieve her goals.

“Many people suffer from illnesses that can improve with knowledge of better eating habits, etc.,” Parks said. “If we change the way we think, provide more resources, and use those resources, I believe we can beat common illnesses and even poverty.”

Parks enrolled at Ashford University because the online format gave her the flexibility to go to school while on active duty. She also saw it as a way to inspire her “fellow brothers and sisters” in the military by showing them that they could earn a degree without sacrificing their careers.

This positive attitude would prove to be vital for Parks. Shortly after enrolling at Ashford while stationed at Sheppard Air Force Base near Wichita Falls, Texas, Parks was with a study group inside a coffee shop when she became the victim of a random hate crime.

Recalling the events of that night in 2010, Parks only heard the gunman shout words of hate before he opened fire. “I remember running and tripping over tables and chairs, people, even my own two feet. I was frantic,” she said.

She was shot in the legs and three other people inside the coffee shop were also wounded in the attack. The assailant continued his rampage at a nearby business before taking his own life.

Parks’ wounds required five surgeries and painful rehabilitation, raising doubts that she could continue her military career. But she refused to let the incident define her life and she pushed herself to recover both mentally and physically. Parks found healing by telling her story. In 2013, she gave a speech titled “Recoil” at TEDxDayton in which she described the attack and how she worked to move forward.

Following her surgeries, Parks returned to training and achieved her goal of becoming a medic. In May 2015, she accomplished another goal when she became the first person in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree.

“I professed to the TEDxDayton crowd that 10 years from now there will be so many more positive events to top the one that led me there,” she said. “Graduating from Ashford is one of those events.”

Ashford University’s Outstanding Alum of the Month recognition was created to spotlight Ashford success stories and graduates who have used their Ashford education as a springboard to personal and professional achievement.


About Ashford University

Where heritage meets innovation – that’s Ashford University. At Ashford, students discover relevant degree programs, innovative technology, and cherished tradition. Ashford offers associates, bachelor’s, and master’s online degree programs, while the Clinton, Iowa campus offers bachelor’s programs. Whether on campus or online, Ashford students enjoy the same supportive community. For more information, please visit,,, or call Shari Winet, Vice President of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.