>>By Payden Hall, Staff Writer

Life is about what you make it, but it is also about who helps you along the way.

Each spring, adult and nontraditional students who have graduated in December or will graduate in May or August are given the opportunity to recognize a special person who has supported them throughout their academic career to   graduation.

The awards were given this year at the Helping Hands Award banquet on Tuesday, April 8. The purpose of the banquet is to acknowledge those who enable others to make better lives for themselves and their children by obtaining degrees.

“The graduates sitting here had something much more valuable,” said Martha Harper, coordinator for Adult and Nontraditional Student Center. “They relied on something very strong to get them through: the love of their families and the kindness of strangers, professors and supervisors.”

Each graduate got up with the person who had helped them and spoke on what their “Helping Hand” had done for them specifically.

For many, it was a best friend who provided free childcare, a parent who  provided financial support or a mentor who  encouraged them relentlessly along the way.

For others, it was a supportive spouse. “My husband’s sacrifice to his country is minimal to his sacrifice to his family … he has been an incredible support,” said Ashley Baker, a mother of three. Her husband, who is in the military, was unable to join her, so her three-year-old son, Junior, stood at the podium beside her.

“In Student Affairs, we know that no matter how hard we try to engage students, none of them will make it to graduation without at least one person cheering and pulling for them personally,” said Harper. “For that reason, the Helping Hands Award Banquet is very special, and I am so proud of this APSU tradition.” TAS