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Earn your degree for you, and for them

By Lynn Wybiral | December 3, 2018

Girl walking down country path

“Wow, mom! Did you stay up all night again?” With a grin, I answered, “Yep, I did. And I’ve got another paper due this week.” And with that, off disappeared my 9-year-old daughter to get dressed for another day of 4th grade. I hopped in the shower to get ready for work, myself.

The journey to reach that morning began years earlier. I always knew I wanted to go to college, to have a career — not just a job. I knew that hard work, and a degree was the gateway to a career. Having grown up on a farm, I knew the meaning of hard work. However, even though the desire was there, I didn’t have the opportunity to go to college right after high school. I worked, got married and started a family.

But, the dream remained. A few years later, long before attending college as an adult was as common and accepted as it is today, I went to college: I'm an IUPUI alum — go Jags! There were no “adult-focused” programs or online courses back in 1988! College was still primarily geared toward traditional 18-22-year-olds. It was a difficult road. I was always thinking about the next chapter to read, the next paper to write, and the next exam to take. I was also busy being a wife, a mother, a friend, a sister, a daughter, and an employee. I’m sure some of you can easily relate!

My daughter traveled right along with me; living the sacrifices. She learned about hard work and long hours from watching me juggle life and college classes. Granted, all those years ago I couldn’t have imagined the full impact I was having on her. But years later, reflecting upon moments like that morning and so many others, I came to understand the example I was setting for her watchful eyes. Stacey also saw the rewards…what an education can do. Education has provided her with opportunities that would not have been possible had I not brought home those textbooks on that first, life-changing day.

Stacey has a love of learning; she is also a college grad enjoying a wonderfully fulfilling career. I’d like to think that her love of learning started with me, but the truth is, she knew the alphabet before the age of two and was reading by the age of three. Thank you, Sesame Street! But in her own words as a now grown woman, “Mom, I remember how hard you worked to get your education, your degree. I can still see the stacks of paper (printed journal articles) strewn all over the dining room table and living room floor: the research needed to write those papers. I remember how you studied those hand-written lecture notes and how you brought textbooks wherever we went. I knew right then I wanted to go to college, just like you!”

I wanted my daughter to have opportunities I didn’t have; to become who she wanted to be. As much as my college education was for me, it was also for her as well, who now has children of her own. And now, they watch her. Just as children everywhere watch us all.

So, if you need the inspiration to start school; to write yet another paper; to take the next exam; to finish your degree — do it for you — but just as importantly, do it for your children, your grandchildren, a niece or nephew, a friend’s child, and the little girl or boy down the street. Remember, the little ones are watching, and you never know who else’s life you’ll impact!

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