Through the Tears, a Major Triumph for Online Student From Illinois
By Bob Romantic
GCU News Bureau
It first hit Carrie Thouvenot as she took the escalator up to receive her graduation packet at GCU Arena. The emotions of what she had accomplished – and what she had been through in the past two years – were creeping up inside her.
“I started tearing up and had to keep telling myself, ‘Don’t cry. Don’t be a big baby,’” said Thouvenot, 40, a Fairview Heights, Ill., resident who received her master’s degree in education at Friday’s graduation ceremony for the College of Education. “Throughout the ceremony I was tearing up. The people next to me must have thought I was funny.”
Funny? No. Proud, relieved and overjoyed? Absolutely.
Thouvenot was diagnosed with Primary Biliary Cirrhosis – a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune cells attack the bile ducts of the liver – at about the same time that she decided to take online classes at GCU with the goal of getting her master’s degree and becoming a teacher. PBC is not curable, but it can be managed through medication and regular blood tests in hopes that it doesn’t worsen and require the need for a liver transplant.
While dealing with that, Thouvenot’s father-in-law died last summer. She lost her grandmother in February. And the brother of her husband, Brian, survived a heart attack about a year ago.
But through all that, she never wavered from her education goal, drawing inspiration from her 6-year-old daughter, Milana, who the Thouvenots adopted from China when she was 14 months old.
“She’s the biggest blessing I could have ever dreamed up,” Thouvenot said. “She led me to education.”
Thouvenot spent all of Milana’s formative years enrolling in classes and learning everything she could about childhood development to help her daughter overcome the neglect she had experienced before adoption.
“At 14 months, she didn’t know how to walk or crawl,” Thouvenot said. “She just didn’t have the muscle strength because they never took her out of her crib. And when they did, they sat her in a walker in front of the TV. It was horrible. She was a late talker. I just kept enrolling her in all these ‘Mommy and Me’ things, anything I could think of to help her socialize and help her develop her speech. I still work with her, but she’s doing really great.
“This degree has really opened up doors to help her progress. That’s what my husband keeps saying. Even if you don’t get a job, you helped her by leaps and bounds succeed academically. And that’s the greatest gift we could have asked for.”
Thouvenot heard about GCU’s online classes through her mom, Diane DiMiceli, who is a professor at Arizona State University. Thouvenot will have her share of student loans that start to come due in December, and the job prospects in Illinois – which has had its share of budget cuts for education – aren’t great.
But, like everything else she has dealt with in the past few years, she’s praying for the best.
“Through everything, I just try to keep maintaining a positive attitude,” Thouvenot said, “because I have a little girl and she needs her mama.”
Contact Bob Romantic at 639.7611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.