» By Myranda Harrison
Several mentors, family members and friends were honored for their influential support provided to graduating non-traditional seniors at the APSU Non-Traditional Student Center’s Helping Hands Awards Banquet on Tuesday, April 9 in the UC ballroom.
Several graduating seniors nominated and honored the person who encouraged them to not only go back to school, but helped them along the way as well. Each student gave a speech and their chosen loved one was honored with a recognition certificate.
Ann French, mathematics major, was one of several students who thanked and honored her children and said that her son was the one who really encouraged her in reaching her academic and graduation goals.
Karletta Epps, a sociology major was one of many who honored her spouse, calling her husband the coach and mentor in her life. He agreed to do another three years in the army so that it would help put her through school because she did not qualify for Financial Aid.
“My husband is my hero,” Epps said.
Marla Klinger also thanked her husband who picked up the extra slack around their household because she was focused on school. He persuaded her to finish her associate’s degree while they were living in Germany and he encouraged her to reach for her bachelor’s degree.
Jill Johnson and Kevin Gonga nominated their spouses as well. Johnson, an education major, said her husband believed in her when she felt the lowest, and she is the first of seven siblings to earn a college degree. Gonga’s wife is Marsha Lyle-Gonga, political science professor at APSU, whom he says was his continuous support over the years as he pushed through getting his undergraduate degree and his masters.
Nursing major Stephanie Dowlen came to APSU 30 years ago, dropped out after just six months, but her boss was her inspiration to go back and finish. Her boss allowed her to focus more on her studies and cut back on her hours at work and still allowing her to keep her health insurance.
“My go-to person who encouraged me when I needed help the most,” she said was not only her boss, but her friend as well.
Single mother of four children and liberal arts major, Darci Bateman decided to nominate the woman who has been there for her entire life, her mother. Bateman made the decision to go back to school at age 41.
“My mother has always been there for me and is an inspirational role-model,” Bateman said.
Angela Rood who has a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Technology honored her parents and children. She has three children and she decided to go back to school in 2005 when her eldest son was nine months old.
Without her parents’ helping hands, she said she would not have been able to graduate, especially without their help with her children. “It has been very hard, but I have done it.”