Integrity matters to Chemeketa’s lead mail clerk
By Willadean Wright
You may have seen her walking the halls of Chemeketa, delivering mail.
Earlene Hickman, Chemeketa’s lead mail clerk and a 15-year college employee, possesses a perpetual smile – not just for staff but for everyone she passes as she makes the rounds across the Salem campus each day.
The smiles are offered for good reason.
“I know what it’s like out there,” she said.
“I graduated from Chemeketa in 2000. I started back to school in my late 30s. I had been out of school for 20 years, and I know the struggles.”
That’s one of the reasons why Hickman is so quick with a smile.
“Everybody needs some encouragement,” she said. “If I can give people a smile, and a ‘How are you doing?’, it makes my day – anything to help a student.”
Hickman has held a variety of jobs at Chemeketa.
“When I started out, I was a Trio Mentor. Then, in my second year in school, I did a Work Study job,” she said. “I worked half time the Convenience Store and half time the Mailroom.”
Doing a job well is something that matters to Hickman.
“One way for students to achieve their goals is to dedicate themselves to a certain amount of time that they are willing to spend at school and stick to that plan – even if you have to join an activities group like Trio, or anything to keep you at school, for the dedicated time frame,” she said.
“Meet your goals and never give-up.”
Hickman began working in the Mailroom fulltime in 2000. That experience led her to her current role.
A health scare, a breast cancer diagnosis in 2002, turned out a great many friends.
“I was off for three months,” she said. “Every single day I got a get-well card and flowers. I never had to cook a meal. Chemeketa has some pretty wonderful staff.”
You don’t have to go far to find Hickman fans.
Lynn C. Irvin, the executive assistant to the college’s vice president and chief financial officer, is among them.
“Every day she comes in with a happy smile and a positive attitude. She brings sunshine into our office,” she said.
Denise Thompson, a Student Services assistant in the college’s Marketing and Recruitment Department, said, “When I see her, I think of this quote: ‘Think positive, be positive, and live positively.’ “
Estheia Zendejas, an administrative secretary in Marketing and Recruitment, said of Hickman, “When I’m having a bad day and she comes in with a smile and her positive attitude, it changes my whole mood – especially since I know some of the things she’s has been through.
“She brings me back to ‘I need to be grateful.’”
Hickman has fond memories of her Chemeketa graduation as well.
“Cheryl Roberts, the former president of Chemeketa, took pictures of my class in our caps and gowns, then gave each one of us a word,” she said. “Mine was Integrity. I’m pretty proud of that.
“To me, integrity means that I have gained strength and have overcome all that I do and completing all that I start.”
While it’s easy to look behind, Hickman prefers to look ahead.
“For the future, I plan to work with the Community Center for Business and Industries Department. At the moment, I do registration for them. Hopefully, this integrity they say I have will get me there,” she said.