This feature first appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
There is a catchy public service announcement that often plays on the radio touting the role of parents in preventing children from underage drinking. The message contains a lot of truth — when parents set clear and reasonable boundaries for their kids, those kids will avoid a lot of youthful pitfalls.
Decades of scientific studies show that children with supportive and involved parents do well in school, have high levels of emotional maturity and self-esteem, and are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
Megan Ameigh of Stillwater, Okla., is fortunate to have engaged parents.
Megan’s parents have taught her to work hard, to serve others, and to always do her best. She has learned those lessons well and is using them to launch herself into a fulfilling career where the sky is quite literally the limit.
Megan, age 17, is currently enrolled at the Meridian Technology Center in Stillwater and is racking up information technology (IT) certifications. Since October of 2021, she has completed the TestOut PC Pro and Information Technology Fundamentals Pro certifications, and Computer Systems I. She is soon to finish TestOut’s Network Pro and plans to follow that up with A+ from CompTIA.
Along with intense study, Megan’s secret to passing cert exams is chewing gum — Wrigley’s Extra Spearmint flavor to be exact. “I chew it when I study and take tests,” said Megan. “The familiar flavor and scent help jog my memory and make me feel prepared.
“Whether it really does help or it’s a placebo effect, I don’t know. But I do know that I passed my exams with flying colors.”
A traveling woman
Megan describes herself as a “military brat” with no hometown. Both of her parents served: Mom was a trained field medic for the National Guard who now works as an emergency room nurse, and Dad flew Kiowa helicopters in close-ground support of infantry troops in Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan.
One benefit of being a military family, is learning to travel light. The Ameighs are highly skilled at pulling up roots and setting off to new locations. “I’ve been a pro at making do,” explained Megan. “Sleeping on air mattresses and eating pizza on paper plates while surrounded by the smell of cardboard boxes is a sense of new adventure that I know like the back of my hand.”
Originally born in Texas, Megan’s first transfer was to Alabama as a 1-year-old. Two years later, the family moved to North Carolina. Four years would pass before the Ameighs were again “wheels-up,” towing a small RV behind the car for the long drive to Alaska.
After just 24 months in the chilly far north, the Army said that it needed Megan's father in Germany. The family dutifully packed up and shipped their belongings off to Deutschland. During a two-month layover for training in Arizona, however, the Army decided that, instead of Europe, Dad and family were going to New York.
“We had to ship all of our stuff back from Germany,” laughed Megan.
Relocating and leaving friends behind is the price that military families pay and frequent moves can be unsettling and disruptive to children. Megan’s parents made sure to minimize any disruptions and portrayed each move as the beginning of something good. “My parents always did their best to associate moving with starting anew and an opportunity to make more friends and new memories,” she said.
Numerous moves and new locations to figure out helped the family grow closer to one another. Megan, the second of four children, loves and praises her three brothers. Haedon, 19, is the oldest. According to Megan, he is incredibly hardworking and highly principled.
“He has outstanding integrity and is always helpful to others,” she explained. “He is always the first person to grab the door for you whether he knows you or not.”
Isaac, age eight is Megan’s middle-child buddy. A talented artist, he enjoys sports and throwing footballs with great precision. Henry, age seven, is the youngest. An imaginative LEGO builder who can whip up a new masterpiece with ease, he is also capable of exploiting his position as the “baby” of the family to full advantage.
“When he wants candy or something, he will turn up the charm with his big brown eyes until you just can’t say no,” joked Megan.
Megan’s parents have been especially influential in her intellectual and social development. Whether it’s choir, sports, computers, or eating the delicious grilled-cheese concoctions she creates, Mom and Dad encourage her efforts and get excited about her accomplishments.
“I love my parents. They support me in whatever I’m doing,” she said. “When I tell them about what I’ve got to do in the lab in class that day, they always tell me how excited they are for my future.”
Families aren’t allowed in combat zones, and while home wasn’t the same without Dad, Mom did double-duty caring for the kids and making certain they knew Dad loved them. “When Dad was deployed, my mom would always be sure to make the holidays special,” said Megan. “Because he wasn’t able to send us gifts, she would buy Christmas presents and say they were from my dad.”
Wild blue yonder
At a young age, Megan learned what her father did in the army and admired him even more for it. “I was always proud of what he did and never kept it on the down-low,” she declared. “On career days at school I would dress up in a flight suit because I wanted to be like my dad.”
Dad separated from the Army after three years in New York. Now free to go wherever they wanted, the Ameighs headed south to Alabama, where Dad taught others to fly helicopters. After just one year, the family decided Alabama wasn’t a good fit and soon set out on move that would dwarf their cross-continental road trip. On a whim, dad applied for and accepted a job flying helicopters on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
Their time in the South Pacific offered lots of sunshine and surf along with unique experiences, including grasshoppers as thick as a cigar and as long as a number 2 pencil. It also provided Megan the opportunity to showcase a couple of her hidden talents.
A lover of all genres of music — except for the current brand of Pop-infused Country — Megan enjoyed strumming on her guitar and was drawn to the croonings of the Man in Black, Johnny Cash. “I love him,” she explained, “I learned his songs to sing in public, because, hey, everyone loves Johnny!”
On an island with a population of only a few thousand, Megan’s musical ability brought her some renown when a neighbor asked her to play guitar and sing a few songs at the local yacht club. “He told me, ‘Better show up,’ and I did,” she explained. “I was low-key famous, people would come up to me in the store and tell me they saw me at the club, but none of my classmates had any idea.”
She is also a good artist, often drawing people in different styles and situations. During school she would draw her friends and teachers as cartoon characters. One teacher, Mary Brown, saw Megan’s creations and invited her to set up an easel at the school fundraiser. Her entrepreneurial venture was a hit with people lining up to have her draw caricatures of them.
“People were coming over asking me to draw them and their kids,” she said. “I ended up making over $200 that day.”
Brown did more, however, than just encourage Megan to draw humorous pictures. She also opened the door to the world of information technology (IT).
Island living is fixing Chromebooks
Megan was the only student in an online health course with Brown as the proctor. One day Brown invited her to examine a Chromebook. “She said, ‘Roll your chair over and take a look at this Chromebook,’ and from there it blossomed,” explained Megan.
“I had always had a desire to fix things, but when I found out what IT really was and how to pursue it, I was going for it.” And go for it she did. “I finished my health course before the end of the school year and spent the rest of the time with Mrs. Brown learning the basics of IT and fixing Chromebooks.”
As the next school year began, Megan’s desire to learn IT proved greater than the desire to learn music. “I had to give up band to take Mrs. Brown’s computer repair class,” she explained, “I thought, ‘Fix Chromebooks, or play French horn?’ Chromebooks are way cooler!”
The allure of IT was strong enough that even free periods went by the wayside. “I have such a love for working with computers and fixing things that I even donated my free period to volunteer fixing broken Chromebooks for both the high school and elementary school,” said Megan. “I would even make runs to help school staff with technical issues like a troublesome projector or funky computer audio.”
Good teachers can have a lifelong impact on a student. Brown is a good teacher, and she has definitely influenced Megan. “She is like family to us,” said Megan. “She helped set out the path for me to pursue my certifications and encouraged me to follow through because it was something I loved to do. If it weren’t for her, I’d still be wondering what career path I want to take and would have missed out on so many amazing experiences.”
Brown admits that it’s easy to teach when you have a student who is personable and eager to learn. “Megan is one of the nicest and smartest young ladies that I’ve run across in my 20 years of teaching, wise beyond her years,” said Brown.
“She is a sponge for knowledge. In a class with mostly male students, she was undaunted, excellent at troubleshooting computers and logical in her thinking. She was my go-to student for … well, everything! Always helped other students and even repaired more Chromebooks in our school than anyone.”
Certification for the win
After an eventful two years abroad, the Ameighs decided it was time for a new adventure. Once again, the family pulled up stakes and headed east. Their destination this time was Oklahoma, where the family currently resides.
Always a disciplined student, Megan had completed numerous advanced placement classes while attending school on Kwajalein Atoll, to gain experience with college-level learning and earn a few credits in the event that she went to college. Thanks to Brown, however, college wasn’t even on her radar yet.
Arriving in Stillwater, she knew exactly what she wanted: to learn even more IT. She decided to finish high school through homeschooling courses and enrolled at Meridian, a two-year community college, to continue honing her IT skills. “It was all Mrs. Brown’s doing,” she explained. “Because IT is all certification-based, there was no need for me to go to a university.”
When listening to Megan talk about certifications, there is no doubt about their advantages. “They are less expensive than a four-year degree and, with certifications, you are immersed in the material you want to learn rather than taking a bunch of core classes that don’t relate to your career path. Certs also ensure that you’re up to date on changes in the tech you’re working with,” she exclaimed.
Meridian is also a location filled with other students who share Megan’s interest. “Meridian is a great environment to work in. All my classmates are as passionate about IT as I am.”
Three of those budding IT professionals recently teamed up with Megan to win first place at the statewide competition for Business Professionals of America. Each team member had to complete designated tasks as the team designed a scalable network for an E-sports arena able to hold 200 to 5,000 attendees for competitions.
Meridian’s team was good, but victory wasn’t a slam dunk. Slipups happened, and tasks had to be corrected on the fly. “We were so worried because we fumbled a bit in the added element portion of the competition,” explained Megan. “But in the end, we pulled through and ended up making a great impression of the judges. Now, it’s on to Nationals!”
To infinity … and beyond!
Megan will complete the Meridian courses and her remaining high school classes in the next month or so and is already stepping into her career. Originally, her plan was to use her IT acumen within a law enforcement organization. Things have changed, however, and her sights are now set somewhat higher.
“The military has been a big part of my life and I have a special pride in serving my country, So, I’m joining up,” she proudly explained. “Dad is all for me entering the military, just not with the Marine Corps,” she joked.
After researching the different services and occupational specialties each offers, Megan has enlisted in the Air Force — but she won’t be staying there for long. After basic training, she will become a member of the military’s newest and arguably coolest branch, Space Force.
“I chose the Air Force because I know I’ll be treated well and get a lot more exposure to IT-based stuff, especially when I’m working in Space Force. I’m excited for it,” she said.
Inaugurated in 2019 by President Donald Trump, Space Force is tasked with conducting global space-based operations that enhance the way our military fights. While that mission statement doesn’t include rocket ships, lasers, and evil aliens — at least not yet — it does mean cyberwarfare at the highest level.
Cyberspace is increasingly the arena for global conflicts. Presently, more than 120 of the world’s militaries have some level of cyberwarfare capabilities. To meet and defeat those who would cause our nation harm, we need patriots in Space Force who are intelligent, curious, and highly skilled in IT. Seems like the perfect job for Megan Ameigh.