Sunday, June 12, 2011


On Friday night we went to the graduation ceremony for Everett Community College.

The graduate we were supporting is a friend of ours. Originally from the midwest, she's nearly 50 now, with five grown children. She's overcome alcohol addiction and a hectic past. Her goal is to study journalism at a nearby university.

Ordinarily an outgoing, dynamic woman, her face was serious as she marched into the auditorium and, later, crossed the stage to accept her diploma and handshakes from the college officials. Afterwards, when we met up to congratulate her personally, she was still serious - and she thanked us several times for coming. She was with her daughter, who told me her mother is her role model.

When I was 37 I went back to school at a community college in Oregon. I had a BA in English, but I was getting divorced and needed to be able to support my two young children. I hadn't attended my BA graduation ceremony at the University of California at Santa Barbara, but I wanted to "walk" when I got my AS in computer programming from Umpqua Community College. I'd done it on my own, after all - gotten a new start. I used that degree for 25 years to support myself.

That's what community colleges are set up to do - to educate not only recent high school grads who are entering vocational trades or transferring to four-year universities, but also people coming back to school after many years away so they can start over.

My sister attended a community college in Kenai, Alaska to prepare for nursing school admission. She'll be starting at the University of Alaska in Anchorage in August at the age of 56.

At the other end of the story was the young woman who sat behind us on Friday night. Very young, with multiple piercings and a two-week-old baby daughter, sitting with her parents. I heard her talk about getting her GED, and I heard lots of talk about the baby between her and her parents, and saw multiple occurrences of passing the baby around between family members. I thought about the attention the girl is getting now as a young mother, and about the limitations ahead of her that she probably doesn't know about yet.

Maybe, 20 or 30 or 40 years from now, someone will come to her graduation ceremony at the community college and watch her walk across the stage for her diploma and her handshakes.


Perpetua said...

Congratulations to your friend, Linda. That's a note-worthy achievement and I'm glad you've posted about it.

I often think that education is wasted on the young and that more mature students get so much more out of it. I did my first degree and then married and had children At 26 I went to college to train as a librarian and later , in my early 40s, I trained for ordained ministry. Educationally speaking I go far more out of those later experiences than I did when I was doing my first degree. i was too busy enjoying the social life back then :-)

Rita said...

I started college at 48 due to health issues whereby I couldn't physically perform the jobs I held in the past. My health continued to decline and I was 16 credits short when I was forced to quit, but it was the best time ever. I was much more focused, a better student, enjoyed classes, and learned positive new things about myself, too.

Congrats to your friend!! It's never too late to go back to school and change your life. Awesome! :)

Out on the prairie said...

I was a much better student with age.I think I read the average age is 27 for community colleges. They offer a lot of chances many never took as serious.I really enjoy looking over classes at a community college, usually smaller classes and more personal than a four year institution.

Arkansas Patti said...

Congrats to your friend for not giving up.
I too went to community college late, I was 35. Unfortunately I burned out as I was working my way through but I don't regret a moment and admire those who make it.

June said...

I feel proud for your friend. She should be in awe of herself for having accomplished what she has, and for undertaking plans to continue.
Those are things that she never would have been able to do while in the throes of addiction.
How satisfying it must be to hear her daughter say that her mother is her role model.

Anything Fits A Naked Man said...

Wow! What a powerful post! I love Community Colleges, specifically for the reasons you mentioned here! I hope, like you, that the young mother sitting behind you was able to take something away from that ceremony!

Sally Wessely said...

Congratulations to your friend. I am very happy for her.

Thanks for sharing your story. You are a very determined and accomplished woman. You should be proud of what you have done. You, your friend, and your sister are all inspirational.

I hope the young woman at the ceremony has someone like you as a role model in her life.

DJan said...

What Sally said (Retired English Teacher)... I hope that young woman has someone like you to look up to. And congratulations to all who attended community colleges, I did too!

marciamayo said...

Beautiful post about the different routes to success and the important part community colleges play.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

That's so great that you could share your friend's special moment -- and that you and your family have also benefited from community colleges. My sister dropped out of high school in the middle of 9th grade and didn't get her GED until she was 40. I'm still in awe of the effort it took for her to earn her associate's degree in nursing and become an R.N. Her second marriage was unraveling and she had a toddler and was working as a nurse's aid while in school. She is now 56 and has a career she loves that has enabled her to support herself and her child. Community colleges open up so many opportunities for students of all ages --ever more important in the current job market.

Deb Shucka said...

Big congrats to the new graduate. That accomplishment, especially in light of her challenges, is something to be so proud of. I had a similar experience with junior college when I was in my thirties and re-entering the world. One of the best things I ever did.

wheels4me said...

Ironically, I had the reverse experience of walking the stage for graduation at UCSB while not graduating and not walking the stage when I did graduate from BCC 20 years later. Heck, UCSB even let me present an award at graduation to the College of Engineering Student of the year.