Motherhood, mettle: Online grads never gave up

April 26, 2022 / by / 0 Comment
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People view Commencement from many vantage points, but the graduates have one view of their online journey — it’s never easy. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

GCU News Bureau

The stories of online learners are like a game of “Can You Top This?” So many of them have overcome so many challenges. Here are the stories of four who graduated on Monday during Spring Commencement:

MALISSA KERR

“I returned to college at GCU to get my bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Health and Science with an Emphasis in Trauma after a 30-year break from attending college in my 20s to raise my 11 children and run our construction business and organic produce farm.

Many online students have to take care of small children while completing their studies. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

“I am a birth worker specializing in perinatal mental health as well and continued to help families through pregnancy, labor and postpartum during my 2 1/2 years at GCU. While attending GCU, I was blessed with three more grandchildren and two sons getting married. My mother had a stroke, my mother-in-law passed away and I experienced a spinal fracture my last two weeks of school while finishing my capstone project and still finished with a 4.0. I am so thankful to have accomplished that. 

“The education I received at GCU was amazing and has helped to further the work I do to serve birthing families. I plan to continue toward a master’s.” 

EMILY KLESICK

“When I went back to college in 2017, I was nervous about what it would mean for my family to be in school while being a full-time mom. After leaving college at age 18 when I became pregnant with my oldest son, I never dreamed that pursuing a degree would be a part of my journey. But when my youngest son was born, the Lord led me to believe that it was time. Nervous and excited, I pursued a degree in English for teaching middle and high school.

“While I faced the typical challenges of having three young boys while going to school online, the adversity didn’t stop there. During my time at GCU I have walked through several different diagnoses of chronic illnesses, several surgeries, multiple procedures and seasons where my schoolwork was accomplished from a place of necessary bed rest.

“I fought hard to do my very best in all areas of my life: being a wife, a mom, serving in ministry and being a student.  Through it all, God showed His faithfulness to me and our family, and I am overjoyed to graduate!”

JANET SMITH

“I am a mother of 10 children and 15 grandchildren. I decided to go back to school four years ago. I loved being on campus at community college and wondering where was God taking me with this new adventure. I was taking Composition II when I realized that I loved learning about English and wanted to be able to teach it someday.

“I started looking at different colleges that offered a degree in ELA that I could do online. I found GCU and have loved all of my classes, counselors and professors. I never thought I would go back to college, but God had different plans for me. I was hired three years ago to be a long-term ELA substitute teacher for a high school. I love teaching, and a school day seems like only a few hours. 

“This past year has been really hard for me. We found out that my ninth child had cancer and he would be going through chemo for nine weeks. It was the grace of God that helped me get through my college classes during my son’s chemo treatments. 

“As Jeremiah 29:11 reads, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

CHRISTIAN LEWIS

“My story with GCU begins with a search for an awesome university that had my major and would allow me to complete my coursework while working fulltime and being caretaker for my ailing mom. GCU was my choice because of its curriculum, flexibility and Christian values.

“My grad school journey has not been easy and has allowed my faith and fortitude to be strengthened in the midst of a global pandemic. My mom died on April 22, 2020, but I continued to work fulltime and attend school because it was one of my mom’s wishes that I complete my education.

“So it is an honor and privilege not afforded to everyone that I complete my studies and graduated almost exactly two years after my mother’s transition to heaven. GCU has helped me through my grief process and to remember that my mother’s life, legacy and memory lives on through me. I’d like to thank the wonderful staff and students of GCU for being so supportive through the process of my mom’s transition.”

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