I believe a college education is a gift everyone should give themselves. I took my first college class in 1976. In the years since then I have started and stopped my education many times. I know first hand how the lack of education limits your options in the work force. I spent most of my life working in low paying jobs that left me unchallenged and unfulfilled. Most women when they reach my age are beginning to look forward to retirement, they are not thinking about homework, research, or tests. On August 20, 2008 I completed a 32 year quest to finish my undergraduate degree, began work on a graduate degree two days later.
I began working at the University of Southern Indiana in 2003; there I had the opportunity to finish my education tuition free. I was determined, to finally, finish my degree. Therefore, I have spent the last four years juggling a full time job, life as a single parent, and a part-time student. I have had to sacrifice time spent with my daughters, my friends and my family. I am always sleep deprived. There are never enough hours in the day to accomplish all that needs to be done. The sacrifices I have made are worthwhile.
I have a unique bond with my daughters because at one point all four of us were in college at the same time. Last fall, I visited my oldest daughter, Jennifer at the University of Oklahoma. We did spend time visiting some of the sites on the campus and around town. However, Saturday night after having dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant, we were both back at her house, each on our respective laptops, she was working in her masters thesis, and I on my senior research project. We were not a mother and a daughter; we were two dedicated college students doing what needed to be done.
The rewards of a college education mean more to me than having a diploma on a wall. I have learned that I can face challenges of being a parent, a student, and an employee, all at the same time, successfully. Most of all, I learned that education is a lifelong experience. Now that I have ever-elusive diploma, I still have trouble believing that I did it. The fact that it took me over half of my life no longer matters. What is most important is that I was able to set a goal and reach it. No matter what else I achieve in my life this will always be my greatest accomplishment.
I once gave a speech on why getting my diploma was so important to me. I will always remember the expressions on the faces of the students when I they learned how long I had been working on my education. As I told them that day, â€œIf you canâ€™t be a good example, then be a terrible warningâ€?.