Of the 627 students who received degrees at Rio Salado’s recent commencement ceremony, perhaps none define perseverance better than Gregory Kosko.
In January of 2009, Kosko lost his job due to corporate economic cutbacks. Later that year, he was diagnosed with Essential Tremors, which later escalated into Parkinson’s disease.
“At that point, I was unemployed, disabled and discouraged,” Kosko said. “While time was not a factor, finances and the ability to physically write and type were huge obstacles.”
Kosko knew he couldn’t let his situation stand in the way of going back to school for a degree to further his re-careering options.
“I enrolled in college just out of high school but circumstances prevented me from completing,” Kosko said. “As I rolled into a job and then a career, I was constantly reminded how much more I could achieve if I would just go back and complete my college education.”
Kosko began researching his educational options and settled on Rio Salado College.
“I chose Rio Salado for three main reasons,” Kosko said. “Online courses allowed me to keep transportation costs at a minimum. Flexible start dates offered a way to manage my daily schedule, and Rio’s transfer options allowed a seamless transfer to Northern Arizona University (NAU).”
In addition, Kosko also considered Rio Salado’s Disability Services department when choosing his college.
“Disability Services, and specifically manager Terry Ferra, helped me through to the completion of each and every course,” Kosko said. “Without this assistance I simply would not have been able to return to school.”
Kosko also credits technology in helping see his academic goals become reality. He used Dragon voice recognition software to assist with taking online classes.
“My advice to others is to focus on the doors that have opened, along with the opportunities they present, and not on the doors that have closed,” Kosko said. “The past is out of your control, the future has yet to be written.”
Now the holder of an Associate in Arts degree, Kosko can focus his attention on the future, which includes further education and helping others with disabilities.
“The Parkinson's diagnosis inspired me to work with those who have disabilities because I experienced it firsthand,” Kosko said. “Until it happens to you, is almost impossible to understand its overall effect on day-to-day living. If I'm able to help just one person get through this and get on with their life, it will be well worth it.”
Kosko plans to continue his education at NAU by earning a bachelor’s degree next year, and then to pursue a master’s degree in education.
“The completion of my college degree will surely open some new doors, but returning to work was not the sole purpose behind achieving my degree,” Kosko said. “It was simply a lifelong goal and the satisfaction it brings is immeasurable.”
Published in the Tempe Republic Saturday, May 19, 2012.