Jan. 28, 2015
People told me I’d never finish. That I would give up. When I got married after just two semesters at MSU and moved with my husband to South Dakota for his tour in the Air Force, some people told me I’d never finish college. I’m certain many more thought it but never said it to my face. But I was determined with a force so fierce and primal that I never gave up. Not getting a college degree just wasn’t an option — no matter how hard it was.
And it was hard. I had to work full-time — first waiting tables in South Dakota while taking classes at Black Hills State in trailers at the extension campus on the military base. Then, just before my husband’s tour was up I came back to Michigan early to start a job doing data entry and the fall semester back at MSU.
It was exhausting. I’d often have an 8 a.m. class, then work until lunch at my office in downtown Lansing, then go back to campus for a class during lunch, then back to my office where I worked past 5 p.m. to make up for time lost during lunch, then back to campus to take a 7-10 p.m. class. All while taking the bus because I couldn’t afford a car. And then I had to find time for homework, paying bills, getting groceries and cleaning house.
Of course finding the money to pay for school was a job all in itself. The money I was making at my job was barely enough to live on, let alone pay tuition with. So I spent plenty of time in the financial aid office trying to piece together loans to make it all work. But giving up just wasn’t an option.
I also had to adjust to being a less-than-traditional student. Most of my classmates weren’t married, weren’t as old as I was and didn’t have to work a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job. I had to figure out a way to get all the classes I needed in the small amount of times I had available. I went to class in business clothes while my classmates came in sweats or even pajamas.
When my husband started law school in Detroit, we moved to the metro area and then I had an additional challenge of commuting to East Lansing for class. By this time I was almost done so I didn’t have to take more than a class or two at a time and only at night. Oh, did I mention I was also pregnant? And suffering horrible all day sickness whenever I got in a car? Again, giving up wasn’t an option.
The day I walked across the stage (at almost eight months pregnant) at commencement at MSU was one of the proudest of my life. Take that, all you doubters. There were so many times that giving up would have been easy, but Spartans never take the easy way out. Never get in the way of a determined Spartan.
I have a feeling Michael C. Juan knows exactly what I mean. He is a second year student in the College of Osteopathic Medicine and what he calls, “a non-traditional student.” He left a successful career in research to start medical school. He’s married, a father and beyond the age of most other students. But he refused to give up his goal of comforting and healing. Read his STUDENT VIEW: From Bench To Bedside, to learn more about his journey.
Kenneth Waltzer professor emeritus of history in James Madison College and the former director of MSU’s Jewish Studies Program, knows all about determination and willpower, but at a much deeper level then simply finishing college. He has studied the strong will to live and survive. His research focuses on the rescue of children and youths and on human behavior under extreme conditions in the Nazi camps. He recently was a historical consultant in the making of the documentary, “Kinderblock 66: Return to Buchenwald” which draws on his ongoing research. The film is being shown around the world today as a part of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Read his FACULTY VOICE: Kinderblock 66 to learn more about this important film.
A few years ago, another “non-traditional” student delivered the senior class remarks at commencement. Rose Cooper had been an on-again, off-again student for more than 30 years and earned her degree in 2012. Her speech gave me chills because she embodies everything that makes a Spartan a Spartan — a never-give-up attitude and the will to do something you believe in. If you haven’t seen this, check it out. Let me know if you get chills too.
Everyone has challenges. Everyone has been told they couldn’t do something they wanted to do. Everyone has fallen down. But Spartans face challenges head on, don’t listen to others' negativity and always get back up. As Rose said, “Never stop getting back up. Keep trying. Keep fighting…and one day, you will.” Spartans Will.
Photo by Kurt Stepntiz
Video by Anthony Siciliano