Archive for Thursday, June 2, 2005

A salute to degrees hard earned

Education offers its own reward

June 2, 2005

With a recent number of graduations in the news, there are several "triumph over tragedy" stories pertaining to how important graduation is to all of us. Whether it is from high school, a community college or university, stories emerge confirming that importance. I counted 13 stories in our local newspapers touching on graduation at Kansas University, Free State and Lawrence high schools, Haskell, and, of course, Eudora High School.

Several were human-interest stories. They detailed such stories as a self-proclaimed bully who turned his life around after befriending a classmate with cerebral palsy and is now graduating, a sister who studied audiology because her older brother is deaf and will now get a degree in speech language hearing, and a young man who contracted bacterial meningitis his senior year returned to speak at KU's graduation and to graduate a year later.

For us here in Eudora, none is more poignant than the story of Rhonda Jones in last week's The Eudora News. Unable to walk because of an automobile accident in December 2003, Rhonda persevered in her studies and graduated with the Eudora High School Class of 2005.

All of these young people had a special story of overcoming adversity, and for all of them a life-changing event fostered new growth, and obviously, a thirst for knowledge. Perhaps experiencing the vulnerability of our human condition, they are wiser in what matters and a large part of that, judging from their stories, appears to be an education. How often we take casually the opportunity to learn and to grow when it is set before us. How often we are anxious to try something new when school becomes tiresome and difficult.

All of my children went off to college because, whether we could afford it or not, we believed learning opened doors to the future. You often hear young people concerned about school loans -- and they should be. I told my kids that education is an investment just like a car or a home. The return will come in various ways. Hopefully self-fulfillment would be one of those.

Sometimes a lucrative job beckons that doesn't require an education but how often do we hear, "I wish I'd stayed in school" from those who are now in mid-life and for whatever reason are now changing jobs.

An excellent example of this is the super athlete who left school before graduation to join a professional athletic team for a large amount of money. Just such an example is the article in the Lawrence Journal-World regarding Archie Marshall, a player on KU's 1988 NCAA champion basketball team. Marshall "walked down the Hill this year with a bachelor's degree in communication studies." The article touched on his struggle to return to school after leaving in 1988 to join the pros.

As he stated, "I haven't had a terrible life. But I know if I had had my degree 17 years ago, career wise, I'd be in a better situation."

I started college at the age of 40 when I was working full-time and had four teenagers at home. Some said I was "nuts," and perhaps I was, because the hours I spent studying and in school took a toll on me as well as my family. Sometimes I regret the time I missed with them, but the excitement of learning and classroom discussion still holds certain magic for me. I stopped about a year short of a degree when my mother broke her hip and then grandchildren arrived and the incentive to push for that degree was not as strong.

I still love learning no matter what the form. Maybe someday I'll walk down my own hill -- or up my hill -- but I'll not give up the dream of finishing someday.

If you believe you are not cut out for higher education, think again.

In the words of Henry Ford, "Whether you believe you can do a thing or believe you can't, you are right."

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