Fifth time's a charm for GCU online graduate

Online communications major Jessica Ogeer with her diploma during the Wednesday morning Fall Commencement ceremony.

Photos by Ralph Freso

After attending four colleges and moving from South Florida to Colorado while raising three children, Jessica Ogeer faced one more obstacle in her nine-year quest to complete her journey in earning a college degree.

An airport gate mix-up and flight protocol caused her and her family to miss their direct flight Tuesday morning from Colorado Springs to Phoenix to attend Wednesday morning's Grand Canyon University Commencement ceremony.

“I was crying,” Ogeer said. “I thought, ‘I don’t understand why this is happening.’ The enemy does things just to get to us, so I focused on keeping my mind in the right place and praying when I felt all hell was breaking loose.”

Fortunately, they caught another flight, connected through Las Vegas and arrived in time for her to walk across the Commencement stage and be honored for completing requirements for her bachelor's degree in communications.

Feeling the warmth of Arizona felt like paradise to Ogeer, who graduated from high school nine years ago. She wanted to enlist in the military, but her father declined signing her papers.

After stints at Florida International, Florida Atlantic, Broward College and Florida A&M as a political science major (against the wishes of her mother, who wanted her to become an attorney), Ogeer didn't plan to continue her education.

Then her husband, Romario, suggested GCU.

Dr. Jennifer Lech poses with online communications graduate Jessica Ogeer during the Wednesday morning Fall Commencement ceremony.

“My husband said, ‘GCU is a Christian school. I think it will be a good program and fit, and it’s online. You can work from home and don’t have to commute after work. There’s extra staff to help you get your degree,’" Ogeer recalled her husband telling her.

“It was a fit, and I love GCU.”

Ogeer nearly gave up pursuing a college education in 2017, one year before she delivered the couple’s first child and tried to attend night school and work full time.

“I have a love-and-hate relationship with school,” Ogeer said. “I love knowledge, I love learning and I Iove all the things that education brings. But I hate the school part of it – structure, studying and tests and things that are required because it sucks the fun out of it. But it was a matter of when and where and how time would eventually line up for me to do it.”

One year after her husband enlisted in the Army in 2020, he contacted Regina Madden, an enrollment manager at GCU who helped the couple through the enrollment process.

They adjusted their classes to make it manageable for Ogeer to resume her education while moving the family from South Florida to Colorado Springs.

Online communications major Jessica Ogeer visited the GCU campus for the first time one day before graduating.

“And here I am, with two additional children,” said Ogeer, who said her 5-year-old son would play with his toy computer while she studied.

Madden raved about Ogeer's resolve.

“I believe what she went through in her past education prepared her and gave her determination to succeed for her future,” Madden said. “I believe because she didn’t do well in her past schooling, she had something to prove to herself. She told me she ‘didn’t believe she was college material.’"

"I realize that it wasn't just about obtaining a degree; it was about proving to myself that I could overcome obstacles and achieve my dreams," Ogeer said.

Madden added, “She proved not only to herself, but to lots of others, you can do anything you put your mind to if you do the work and keep the focus. She operated in a spirit of excellence while optimizing her opportunities and using her time effectively. She was mentally prepared to take on this challenge and excel. Once she put the system that worked for her in place, there was no looking back. She set her eyes on the end prize, and that was graduation.”

Jessica Ogeer smiles during the Wednesday morning Fall Commencement ceremony.

Ogeer thought she’d be a radio host as a kid, “and then I realized radio is slowly but surely going away.”

She operated a podcast, “Hatching Faith,” a few years ago, before family and educational demands took priority.

“I love all aspects of communication and learning and communicating with people, interacting and seeing different people in how they work, in a sense,” Ogeer said. “Even learning about body language and figuring out if your feet are pointed a certain way, or your shoulders are shifted this way. Learning about the different aspects about how people are communicating without saying a word is really big for me.”

During her nine-year odyssey, Ogeer worked as a legal assistant and in various administrative roles, including quality support and risk management duties at a hospital.

“Administration is actually one of my gifts, and once I figured that out, I felt I could work anywhere,” Ogeer said.

A communications research methods class was the Ogeer's toughest class.

Jessica Ogeer earned her online degree in communications during Wednesday morning's Fall Commencement ceremony.

“I still managed to squeeze out a B,” she said.

Once she landed Tuesday at Sky Harbor International Airport, her fears turned to optimism as she began to survey the GCU campus following a one-hour wait at a car rental counter and an additional hour to pick up her vehicle.

She decorated her graduation cap with photos of herself, her husband (an online sophomore history major at GCU) and three children, ages 5, 2 and 1.

“I’m still in awe that I am done,” Ogeer said, while relaxing in a chair on the patio of Havoc House. “And my husband said, ‘Are you going for your master’s?’ And I said, ‘Can I breathe? Give me a second.’

“It took nine years for me to even get to this place. ... I just want to bask in the fact I ‘m really even here right now. I’d never been to Arizona before. I’m just in awe of what God has done in my life. And even just being here, it’s amazing.”

GCU Senior Writer Mark Gonzales can be reached at [email protected]

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