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Dominick Fink Earned Her Degree Online While Cheering for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Raising Her Son

By Harry Minium

Dominick Fink is a living example of grit and determination, someone who worked and persevered to fulfill her dreams in spite of the many obstacles.

Among those dreams was getting a degree from Old Dominion University, and she did even while living 600 miles south of Norfolk.

A Chesapeake native who attended ODU for three years, Fink is a single mom who works as a cheerleader for the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League. When she moved to Florida, she was seven classes short of a degree.

But even with two full-time jobs and responsibilities as a single mother, she completed those classes through ODU's online program and fulfilled the requirements for a bachelor's degree in communication over the summer.

"She was a phenomenal student," said Brendan O'Hallarn, a lecturer in public affairs and media relations, who taught one of her courses. "We had a group project to do in that class, and she took over and led the group,"

Her life is going well now, but for the longest time, she couldn't see herself as a college graduate or an NFL cheerleader.

Fink was shy and a bit of a loner as a child, so her mother put her in dance classes. There, she thrived. When she was 12, things changed. She lost her hearing and underwent several surgeries. She has had to wear a hearing aid ever since and for years, could not dance.

When she was a freshman at ODU, she began dancing with the Dynasty Dance Team and was crowned Miss District of Columbia. She also made the cut to became a cheerleader for the Washington Redskins. But she had to give up that opportunity when she injured her leg.

Then, during her sophomore year at ODU, she got pregnant.

Overloaded by the academic load she was carrying and the demands of caring for a baby, she failed two courses.

"I felt defeated," she said. "I didn't want to go back to class."

But she kept going. When she couldn't find a babysitter for one of her classes, "the professor told me to bring the baby to class," she said. "The professors at ODU were so willing to help me."

Fink doesn't need a degree to be a cheerleader, but says she will need it later in life when she goes into business. Getting her degree was important to her for other reasons.

"It gave me so much confidence," she said. "I have it now, and no one can take it away from me.

"And I did it for my son. I wanted to make sure he knew that not only was I determined to finish what I started, I want better for him."

She says she's grateful for ODU's online program. "The work was hard, but you had assignments in place before you started each semester. Everything was laid out."

Fink says the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders TV show tells it like it is. NFL cheerleaders are trained athletes who work a ton of hours. The Jags' cheerleaders have personal trainers, scheduled workouts and mandatory public appearances. They also have other jobs - Fink is a resource teacher for a private school in Jacksonville.

"There are cheerleaders who are doctors and lawyers," she said.

Cheering for the Jags comes with perks. Fink, who's now a team captain, has been to London four times and has danced on stage with New Kids on the Block, Colt Ford, 69 Boyz and 95 South. Her most memorable performance came during a concert by Cher and Nile Rodgers.

She once when skydiving to promote the Jags and has done a series of commercials for the Carnival Cruise Line.

She said the lessons she learned at ODU are still with her, including one she learned as a freshman with the Dynasty Dance Team, which held 6 a.m. practices.

"It taught me responsibility," she said.

Her parents, Kenneth and Leslie Anderson, still live in Chesapeake and are frequent visitors to Jacksonville. Dominick took on her mother's maiden name of Fink.

"My mother jumps on a plane every weekend and sometimes will come and stay here for a month at a time," Fink said. "I couldn't have done this without them."

As for her son, Preston, "it was not the optimal timing having him at 19, but there's not a day that goes by that I regret having him.

"He's the best thing in the world that's happened to me. He's changed me. He is the love of my life."

Maybe one day, he, too, will attend ODU.

"And when I start work on my master's degree, it's going to be at Old Dominion," she said.

Contact Minium: hminium@odu.edu

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