ECU grad provides guidance to domestic and intimate partner violence survivors
Dakota Wilson is a first-generation college graduate who uses her knowledge gained from East Central University to make an impact around the state by guiding organizations on how to respond to those affected by domestic and intimate partner violence.
The Oklahoma native grew up in Latimer county, raised by her grandparents who recognized Wilson’s potential and encouraged her to pursue higher education. After her grandmother’s passing, Wilson decided to make her dream a reality.
“My Nana encouraged me to find something to do that could increase my independence,” she said.
Becoming a single mother after high school, Wilson’s plate was full raising her son.
She talked to a career development program advisor from Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma who recommended ECU because of the flexible schedule options, the financial resources, and the fact that the McAlester branch location was so near her home.
“It helped me that those courses were close by and designed for nontraditional students. They had night classes and lots of online options before that was very popular, '' Wilson said.
Wilson was able to earn both an associate’s degree in psychology/sociology from Eastern Oklahoma State College and then a bachelor's degree in human services counseling from East Central all at the East Central University / Eastern Oklahoma State University McAlester campus.
Without that location close to home, the support of her professors, and the flexible schedule, she wouldn’t have been able to graduate and pursue her dream.
“I was a young, single mother, working full time and I didn't know if I had room in my schedule. ECU made earning a degree accessible for me. My teachers and advisors supported me when I didn't know if I could do it,” Wilson said.
Wilson always knew she wanted to help people. After earning her associate’s degree she transferred to the University of Oklahoma’s nursing program. But it quickly became clear that the large environment and class size weren’t right for her at the time.
Wilson worked in the nutrition program at Choctaw Nation while she earned her degree in human services counseling. As part of her coursework, she accepted an internship in the children and family services program where she found her passion. As a survivor of violence herself, Wilson went into intimate partner violence prevention to help those with similar experiences.
“I wanted to do something to give back and help people when they are struggling. I knew if people understood that I’ve been on that same path, then I would be in a special position to help them,” Wilson said.
After graduation, Wilson served as a family violence prevention social worker with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma for over four years. Now she is an independent trainer and consultant, providing guidance to professionals in law enforcement and nonprofits. She has a special focus on rural Oklahoma.
“This part of the state has fewer resources and a lot of need,” Wilson said. “It means a lot to be able to help my community.”
If you need help, the Oklahoma Safeline 800-522-7233 is a free 24/7 number for victims of intimate partner violence. The line is 100% confidential and has translations in over 150 languages.