Friday, December 1, 2017


According to an article written by Xi Lin in the Department of Educational Foundation Leadership and Technology at Auburn, Alabama, 61 percent of the adult student population enrolled in colleges and universities of the U.S. are female nontraditional students. They are the fastest growing segment of all groups in higher education. Most of these students have multiple roles as parents, spouses, and employees and are challenged by child care, financial, and school responsibilities. They sometimes feel marginalized and excluded from traditional campus life, and they run a formidable race to achieve their educational goals.

I read this article only yesterday, and I know the facts presented in it on a firsthand basis. I know those facts because my youngest daughter, Elizabeth, at age 52, will be capped as an RN at Antelope Valley College in California (the college that former Poet Laureate Kay Ryan first entered) next week. She entered at the level of a freshman, and at the entry level, I think she underestimated her ability to succeed. However, she’s a highly-determined young woman. Her great-grandmother, Sarah Nell Greenlaw, once said that “she’s a stubborn child, but that isn’t always a bad quality.” Elizabeth was two when Grandmother Nell voiced this declaration.

Elizabeth went out to California at 18 and married before she could begin her academic experience. She has three children, ranging from age 14 to 34, and she home-schooled (and still home schools the youngest) all three, two of whom graduated from the school I playfully refer to as “Elizabeth’s School.” A few years ago, she decided that the time had come for her to continue her own education, and she entered Antelope Valley College. During her years of attending college, much of the time in Honors classes, she has been a homemaker, continued to run her home school, managed the stress associated with her youngest child’s juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and dealt with other family illnesses. I watched Elizabeth “ace” Chemistry, and Anatomy, and marveled at her ability to excel in classes for which she had no background education. She says that one of her most difficult classes was an Art History class, mostly because she had to visit museums for six weeks, several as far away as Los Angeles, which is a two-hour drive from her home in Palmdale, California.

I couldn’t resist celebrating Elizabeth’s achievement via a salute in a blog. I plan to fly out next week to attend the capping ceremony, and I’m sure it will be an emotional event.We’re a family of late bloomers. While raising a young son, Elizabeth’s sister, Stephanie, graduated cum laude in Psychology from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette at the age of 29; my daughters’ father received two degrees from Louisiana State University at the age of 31. I know that their level of self-confidence, while pursuing higher education, was often low, and the gap between high school and entering college was a hurdle they had to jump before they could catch up to traditional students. However, every time the bar was raised, they sailed over it. In Science of the Mind, I recently read and champion the idea: “…the energies …increase over time with the intentions you create, the words you chant, and the focus of your mind…”

I’ve resisted putting photographs of my offspring on Facebook for years, and family photos seldom appear in my blogs, but this event deserves notice, so here’s Elizabeth of whom the family is proud (as proud as I was when Stephanie was cited as a cum laude graduate in 1989). After visiting Elizabeth in California one summer, I wrote a poem entitled “Elizabeth Growing” that appeared in Soaring, one of my books of poetry, and I think of the last few lines this morning as I celebrate Elizabeth’s achievement: 

“You do the heart work,
cultivate fruit trees and marigolds,
small plots in sand drifts,
soul seeds that grow upward
toward the stars under which you swim,
entering the realm where you, again,
‘trail clouds of glory.’”*

Salud, Elizabeth Alice!

*"Intimations of Immortality” by William Wordsworth

Painting on cover of Soaring by Paul Emerson Marquart

No comments: