- Associated Press - Sunday, May 28, 2017

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) - Marcella Bynum recalled wanting to be a nurse when she grew up.

“My mom died of cancer when I was 14, and I saw the way nurses took care of her,” Bynum said.

However, Bynum found new interests - and new ways to care - as she entered adulthood.

“I worked with special needs children at Muskogee Public Schools. That was my niche,” she told the Muskogee Phoenix (https://bit.ly/2qMmMA9 ). “I worked with children who needed a little love and attention.”

Bynum began working as a direct care specialist at Oklahoma School for the Blind in 2004.

She also cares for horses and chickens at her western Muskogee home.

The thread of 4-H Club involvement has sewn these different aspects of her life together. She was active in 4-H as a teen, a parent and an Oklahoma School for the Blind club adviser.

Marcella Bynum’s Oklahoma School for the Blind workday begins at 7 a.m., when residential students wake up.

“I work with the students, making sure they get up in the morning, make sure they get dressed, be there if they want to talk,” Bynum said. “Be their second mama.”

She also helps drive students home and to special occasions.

“During prom, we took girls to get their hair done. We went with the boys to get tuxes, get fitted for the tuxes,” she said.

Bynum also helps students in the classroom.

She said she has stayed at the school 13 years to watch children grow from pre-kindergarten through high school graduation.

“We’re just one big family,” she said. “It’s like watching my own children grow up, watching them hit milestones they probably wouldn’t have hit if they were in the public schools. Watching them learn for the first time to read a Braille book and seeing that light bulb go on, and you see their face - and they get it. Like when your child, who has vision, learns to read a book for the first time.”

She said she has been most impressed by students’ determination.

“When they’re hitting their milestones in school or out in public, people might be staring, and the students can feel it,” she said. “They can tell when people are staring at them.”

She said “certain people” might pick on the students.

“These kids just roll it off their back like it’s no big deal,” she said.

Bynum had no horses growing up. But her husband had been a steer roper and calf roper when he was younger.

“When we met, he taught me how to ride a horse, how to barrel race,” she said. “He bought me my first horse.”

They began team penning cattle.

“You had to sort them by numbers,” Bynum said. “You’d be on your horse with a team and they’d holler a number and you had to get that number of cattle in so many seconds and get them into a pen.”

It was fun and frustrating, she recalled.

“You’re herding animals into a pen without all the other animals going in that direction,” she said. “Sometimes you don’t get any cattle into a pen, or you have the whole herd in that pen.”

In barrel racing, Bynum recalled learning how to keep her balance in the saddle.

“You have to stay upright in the saddle without falling off,” she said. “The more confident you get, your horse relaxes, you relax. You become one.”

Bynum said she enjoys also enjoys going trail riding. She said she’s ridden around Belle Starr, around Robbers Cave State Park and on private property around Porter.

“I love being out, if we’re on a trail ride, being out in nature. Being alone, enjoying the peace and quiet and not the bustle of the town,” she said. “And if we’re out at a rodeo, we’re riding horses with our friends, the horses become part of your family.”

Bynum first got involved in 4-H as a high school student. She was active in the speech and photography programs.

“Our high school English teacher told us we needed to get involved with 4-H, especially with speeches, because as we got older we needed to know how to give a speech,” Bynum said. “It helped a little. I still get nervous in front of people, giving speeches. But I can do it if I need to.”

She said she learned to deal with nerves.

“You might be nervous, but don’t let them know that you’re nervous,” Bynum said. “Go out there and have fun when you give a speech.”

She said she learned “a different view of life” through photography.

“We got to go out, and we went to the lakes to take pictures of the flowers,” she said.

Bynum said 4-H helped her oldest child overcome shyness.

“It opened her up when she was speaking in front of people,” she said. “It gave her the confidence to accomplish anything she could set her mind to do.”

She said her children showed horses and goats while in 4-H.

Bynum spent four years leading the 4-H program at the Oklahoma School for the Blind. They had a cooking class, speech program and raised rabbits.

“The speech had to be about their rabbits,” Bynum said. “They had to learn about their rabbits, how much food you had to give them. They had to know how to take care of their rabbits and be confident and be able to speak about it. When you’re showing the rabbits, the judges are going to ask you questions about that rabbit, and you’re going to have to talk about your rabbit.”

Bynum said the program helped many students overcame their shyness.

“The first year we showed, we had 18 rabbits and four Grand Champions in the county show,” she said.

___

Information from: Muskogee Phoenix, https://www.muskogeephoenix.com

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