Archive for Thursday, May 24, 2007

Local mom and daughters each graduate on same weekend

May 24, 2007

The road to college graduation has been a long one for Tami Klinedinst. It has involved raising four children, living on two continents and, at times, working five jobs to make ends meet.

Klinedinst, a 45-year-old Eudora resident, received a bachelor's degree in psychology last weekend from Kansas University, something she began pursuing more than 25 years ago. It makes things sweeter for her that two of her children will have school graduations on the same weekend, one from Johnson County Community College and the other from Eudora High School.

"To me, it's an accomplishment. It's something I've wanted to do before but just never had the internal strength to finish it," Klinedinst said. "I would recommend anybody going back to school, even if it's just for a couple of classes."

Klinedinst, who grew up in the small Kansas town of Mankato, first enrolled at KU in 1981. While there, she fell in love with an international student, got married and moved with him to his home in Honduras.

They had three children and lived there for eight years. He worked for his parents' grain business; she helped start a bilingual school. But the marriage grew more and more troubled, and eventually Klinedinst felt her only option was to leave while her husband was at work.

"I literally snuck out of the country with the kids," she said.

They came back to Kansas in December 1993 and settled in Eudora, in part because it was a small school system that would help Klinedinst's oldest daughter, Anna Fernandez, adjust to English-speaking life.

Klinedinst said she worked five jobs at one point: as activities director at a local nursing home, assistant manager at Dairy Queen, caretaker for two neighbors who used wheelchairs, lab instructor at Kansas City Kansas Community College and physical therapy assistant on the weekends.

In 2000, she married Steve Klinedinst, who is pastor at Lone Star Church of the Brethren, and they had a son, Mathias, in 2004.

Tami Klinedinst said she decided to go back to school two years ago in large part because she wanted to be able to become a nursing home administrator. She now works as activities director at a Bonner Springs nursing home.

Klinedinst said the biggest difference between KU today compared with the early 1980s is the prevalence of computers.

"For enrollment, I just remember standing in these long lines. ... Now, everything is computerized. It's all online," she said.

Then there was the process of going back and verifying her transcript. Late this semester, she got a scare when she learned that a course she took in the early 1980s at Colby Community College might not count toward her degree. But in the end, it did.

In addition to Anna, who is now 21, Klinedinst has two children from her first marriage: daughter Melissa Fernandez, 18, and son Fabian Fernandez, 16.

Anna Fernandez earned an associate degree Friday from JCCC. Melissa graduated Saturday from Eudora High School.

Anna Fernandez said of her mother, "The fact that she even made the effort to go back to school to finish her education pretty much inspires me to work harder in school -- knowing that if my mother can do it, I can do it."

Sunday would have been Tami Klinedinst's day to walk down Campanile Hill, but motherhood called. She went Ohio to watch Melissa compete in gymnastics in the Junior Olympic Level 10 National Championships.

The family plans to have a party next month to celebrate the graduations, but things won't necessarily calm down after that. The Klinedinsts are thinking about adopting two to three more children.

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