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Jameel Orday Fulfills Dreams at Arkansas State


JONESBORO — A favorite motivational speaker of Arkansas State University student Jameel Orday once said, ‘When you reach for your dreams, reach for the sun because if you fall short, at least you’ll land on the moon.’ Orday took this to mean to not sell himself short by going after small dreams. Orday will receive his diploma and honors certification Dec. 13 during Arkansas State’s fall commencement ceremony and embark on the next leg of the dreams that he reached for and found.

Orday will move to Houston, Texas, immediately after graduation and begin his new fulltime position Jan. 2, 2015 as a carrier sales coordinator with J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc., one of the largest transportation logistics companies in the U.S. He takes with him negotiating skills he learned at Arkansas State that will aid him in producing and providing solutions to complex logistical needs. He will also help manage the freight booking and delivery process to assist J.B. Hunt customers in moving their products more efficiently.

“What a great way to start the New Year,” exclaimed Orday. “I will work closely with third-party carriers.  I was blessed to get this job as a result of attending the career fair in 2013 where I met a recruiter from J.B. Hunt.  Although the recruiter was there for the Memphis office, he forwarded my resume to their main office in Lowell, Arkansas.  Not long after that meeting, I received a call from the recruitment office in Lowell and we began to discuss some of my plans after I graduated. The rest is history!” 

The dreams and goals have not been an easy reach for the 46-year-old Orday who is originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He started his education in the late 1980s attending Cheyney University of Pennsylvania on a vocal scholarship.

“It was an opportunity of a lifetime, but sadly, one that I failed to take seriously at that time in my life,” Orday explained. “I was not prepared mentally to accept the responsibility of being in college, and as a result, I failed miserably.  I dropped the ball and lost my scholarship.”

Orday painfully recalls how the action disappointed his family and let down those who had faith in him.

“I’ll never forget the look on my mother’s face when I told her that I lost the scholarship.  She was so disappointed with me.  I went to work after that and for the next 20 years, I worked various types of jobs, but nothing in terms of a career.  I always had it in the back of my mind to return to school one day, but I did not have the faintest idea when that would happen.” 

However, as fate would have it, after moving to Jonesboro in 2009, Orday saw an opportunity to return to school.  “I had a strange feeling inside that kept urging me to go for it.  My inner voice kept telling me that now is the time.  Thank God I listened to that voice. 

After enrolling in Arkansas State, Orday had a strong desire to become part of the Honors College program and, as a sophomore, was accepted into the program in 2011.

“I really wanted to be a part of that program because I had a strong desire to challenge myself beyond the normal course work.  I wanted to see how much more I could handle in terms of course load and responsibility.  The Honors College provided that challenge and I’m glad that I stuck with it.”

Aside from fulfilling his wishes for a good college education, Orday has another personal goal in mind—his 20-year-old son named Issa. Orday wanted to make his son proud.

“I think he likes the fact that I’ve returned to school but he hasn’t actually told me how he feels,” Orday continued. “He’s so busy living his own life that I don’t see him as often as I would like to.  Nonetheless, I pray for him often and hope he sees that what I’m doing is not only for me but for him as well.  As a matter of fact, he’s the reason I decided to return to school.  I was always preaching education to him and I wanted to prove that what I was telling him was right, so I decided to return to school to be an example of what I was preaching.”

The cultural and logistical differences between coming from Cheyney and being from Philadelphia were many when Orday arrived in Jonesboro. He loves A-State and is grateful that the university has provided him with a second chance.

“The differences are varied,” said. “Of course, one outstanding aspect of those differences is the fact that Cheyney is one of the oldest historical black universities in the U.S.  In contrast, Arkansas State has a far more diverse student population with the largest proportion being white.  So, from that lens, the experience was very different in terms of cultural expression, behavior and overall student activities. 

“For me, however, the experiences were different mainly because of my age.  At Cheyney, I was two decades younger and my interests, motivations, goals and objectives were different than they are now.  I did not perceive how important higher education is like I do now.   I think that regardless of where a person attends college, what truly matters is ‘why’ they’re there, rather than ‘where’ they chose to attend.”

Being a student at A-State has affected and changed Orday’s life in a tremendously positive way. At A-State, he also had a market research internship stint at the Small Business and Technical Development Center working with small businesses in the state of Arkansas.

“Not only has A-State given me a new skillset, but also a new mindset. Being a student at A-State at this stage in my life is beyond words. It’s been the highlight of my life thus far.  When I think of how much I’ve been through to reach this point my eyes swell with water.  I remember the time when my car broke down and because the place where I had a job wouldn’t work around my schedule, I had to give up my full-time position as a lead and go to part-time status with a pay reduction. 

“As a result, I didn’t have enough money to get my car fixed and I had to walk two-and-a-half miles each way to attend classes.  I did that for almost two years!  I remember not having enough money for a meal plan and very little to eat at home, and so, I carried two or three packs of noodles in my backpack every day for my lunch and dinner.”

Instead of feeling defeated and giving up, Orday said the experience was a learning one. 

“Despite the many hardships I endured to get an education, I’ve found A-State to be a beacon of hope and inspiration for me.  Whenever, I would look up and see the library tower piercing through the skyline, I would suddenly be reminded of time and what must be done. 

“Strangely, when I stepped foot on the Arkansas State campus, I always felt right at home.  I always felt as though I belonged here and that being here said something special about me.  A-State gave me that feeling of accomplishment long before graduation day came into view.  I’ve been so fortunate to walk on its grounds, traverse its halls of learning, and learn at the feet of its scholars with whom I’ve come to admire and reference in conversations. 

“Finally, A-State has raised my awareness about the world, especially the global economy and business, and has helped me to see limitless opportunities ahead.  I’m so thankful to Arkansas State for all that it strives to do for the students, and I hope to someday be in a position to show my appreciation by giving back through a scholarship of my own.”

Orday is already working on a plan and efforts to establish a scholarship called “Legacy of Excellence Initiative (LEI).” His mission for LEI is to provide a roadmap to success for minority students who otherwise have a higher likelihood of not completing a degree program.  The purpose of the LEI is to help encourage and promote higher education among minority populations. 

“I’ve observed that the prisons are full of young, confused but potentially bright men and women who could have been sitting in the same classrooms that I’ve sat in and getting a degree,” he noted.  “But, for various reasons, known and unknown, they’ve taken a different route and are being educated in a different way.  I find that to be so unfortunate for them, but more so, for America because the most important resource of any nation is its people, all of them. 

“Yet, in our nation, many of our young are dropping out of high school, resorting to a life of drugs and other illegal activities, and this destructive pattern has especially deeply wounded minority communities.  So, the LEI’s main objective would be to promote higher education among minorities within the high schools, and encourage them to finish their degree while in college by providing financial support and mentorship throughout the four-year process.  I’m not opposed to helping any student with a need, but I feel strongly that minorities have the most urgent unmet need in terms of higher education among all other groups.  So, my initial plan is to focus there and expand the scholarship from that point, God willing.”

So, Jameel Orday’s success story is on an upswing. And, he starts the next chapter of his extraordinary life Jan. 2. He calls the move to Houston “irony.”

“While taking an honors marketing class with Dr. Shane Hunt (dean of the College of Business), we were required to write a marketing plan involving our career goals and objectives.  In that report, I mentioned that one of my goals was to get a job and move to Texas after graduation.  Fortunately, things have worked out as I hoped and planned.  So, I definitely see this as a new chapter in my life.  It’s not very often that things go as we plan them.  Life has a way of doing things differently than what we want or hope.  But, in this case, good fortune has smiled on me.  Therefore, I take it as a good sign that I’m headed in the right direction.

“I’m humbled by the support I’ve received and continue to receive from the faculty at Arkansas State,” he concluded.  “They have truly been the wind beneath my wings during my time in college. I firmly believe that I have a purpose to fulfill during my time on earth.  I believe that my ups and downs in life are all meant to serve a purpose.  Therefore, I wake up every day realizing that the clock is ticking on my life and that time is a precious commodity; that there’s no time to waste.  I often reflect on what my ancestors have endured as slaves and I feel charged with a great responsibility to do better for myself, my family, and my community.”