TYLER, Texas (KETK) – This Remarkable Woman is using her extensive military background to serve her community in the classroom and beyond.
LaRhonda Hamilton is a true example of the power of a servant’s heart and its infinite capacity to help others. Her resume is extensive:
- U.S. Army veteran
- TJC professor
- Board member
- Founder of several nonprofits and volunteer events
- Recipient of various prestigious awards
Though her experience has taken her down many roads and allowed her to touch many lives, for Hamilton, she’s just following her heart.
“I just have the desire and the passion inside of me to continue to be a community servant,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton’s desire to help people, and her desire to see the world, started from a young age.
“I hit the ground running, I definitely did,” she said.
After she graduated from Crockett High School, she enlisted in the Army at age 18.
“I went to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for my basic training,” Hamilton said. “And then on to Germany. Wertheim, Germany, for my first duty station. And then on to Fort Campbell, Kentucky.”
Her military career came to an end 20 years, four months, and eight days later in Texarkana in 2009. Those years in the military helped shape the foundation of Hamilton’s future career path.
“As a child, I was very shy, very reserved,” Hamilton said. “Going into the military helped me, but I feel I was afraid of public speaking.”
When she transitioned into civilian life, Hamilton took her servant’s heart and leadership skills with her. She worked as a Child Maltreatment Investigator with the state of Arkansas, then a criminal justice teacher at Texarkana High School. After more than four years, Hamilton made the difficult choice to move to Tyler Junior College.
“I had a real close bond with my students and when they got wind that I was leaving, they and their parents were like, ‘Don’t leave us,'” Hamilton said.
Still, she was determined to foster the same student-teacher relationships no matter where she taught.
“I help them feel comfortable, you know, on day one,” Hamilton said. “And then they just set the tone for the remainder of the semester.”
After five years at TJC, Hamilton’s efforts were recognized with a prestigious award: The Watson Endowed Teaching Excellence Award.
When she first moved to Tyler, Hamilton said she planned to take it easy, but her plans changed.
“And before I knew it, I was part of this board, this committee, and chartering organizations,” she said.
One of those organizations is the East Texas National Association for Blacks in Criminal Justice.
“There are three aspects of the criminal justice system. We have police, we have courts and we have corrections.”
The organization aims to educate the public about all three aspects.
“We want to bridge the gap between the community and law enforcement,” she said.
Hamilton said she’s driven by the all-encompassing desire of her servant’s heart.
“I have that passion to include everyone, and my passion is more for women, for veterans and for youth.”LaRhonda Hamilton
She also serves on the board for CampV, her way to continue serving even after her time in the military.
“It was a great honor to receive a call asking me to be appointed to the board,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton serves as the liaison between the CampV board and the Women’s Center. An all-encompassing space for female veterans and military wives to do everything from laundry and business affairs to meditation and yoga.
Camaraderie remains a focal point, holding monthly fireside chats.
“Women veterans come and they get to speak about their time in the service,” Hamilton said.
The center even has a children’s play area. Years later, Hamilton was recognized by the Women in Tyler Committee.
Hamilton is so involved with the community, people often ask her: how does she do it all?
“I do not sleep, my mind will not slow down,” Hamilton said. “It’s just constantly coming up with ways to better the community in one way or the other.”
Her most recent undertaking was founding an event to empower and inspire women in higher education. She didn’t expect a large crowd, but RSVPs kept rolling in.
“The next morning, I had 50 that registered, and then it was 75, and then there was 90, and then it was almost 100,” Hamilton said.
World Changing Women in Leadership Night Out was a hit, surrounded by encouraging women, motivating and leading by example.
“They were able to take something away from that and implement it into their lives and know that if they can do it, I can do it as well,” Hamilton said.
It was supposed to only be a one-time event, but now Hamilton is preparing for the next one and plans to make it “bigger and better.”
Reflecting on her move to Tyler, Hamilton acknowledged that there is a reason for everything, with the goal to set up the next generation for success.
“I just want to be a community servant, be a community leader that is trying to pave the way for those that are coming behind me,” Hamilton said.
She’s putting them at the forefront of inspiration.
“I’m standing here with these other powerful women and they’re paving the way for me, and if they can do it, I can do it as well,” Hamilton said.
From experience in the military to leadership in her classrooms and the East Texas community, LaRhonda Hamilton is truly a Remarkable Woman in so many ways.