Monday, May 19, 2014

Graduate’s Degree 38 Years in the Making

Some students take a few semesters (or years) off from school to take a break, get a job, travel, or figure out what they really want to do in life. Rio Salado College student Kristi Houston was no different. However, her break lasted 38 years!

“My goal of graduation took 38 years to attain,” said Houston, who did take some college classes after high school.

“My major was the same as most 18-year-olds: ‘I don’t know what I want to major in, but I will minor in fun classes until I figure it out.’”

Houston is a self-described perpetual student.

“It sounds like I am a slow learner, but I took a decades-long break from college to raise a family and run an art publishing business.”

After the recession hit, Houston had to reinvent herself to remain employable.

“I realized that the most basic jobs required skills I didn’t have,” Houston said. “I was determined to go back to school and earn my degree so that I could qualify for a better job.”

Living in Springerville, Arizona, Houston’s educational options were limited. Then in 2010, she discovered that she could take online classes at her convenience through Rio Salado College.

“Being able to take classes online, on my schedule, is what made it all possible,” Houston said. “And the fact that I took the bulk of the classes for my degree after age 50 was a real advantage. I took my studies more seriously than I did in my teens and 20s.”

Houston completed her coursework last November, and earned an associate degree in computer technology in May.

“Just a few days after finishing my last class at Rio, I interviewed for a graphic designer position for the Phoenix Veteran’s Administration, and got it,” Houston said. “This is my dream job. The skills I learned at Rio Salado changed my life, and my quality of life.”

Houston has no regrets for putting college on the back burner. In fact, she credits the support of her husband, three children and three grand-children for helping her stay motivated.

“Any time I would get overwhelmed or burned out, my family encouraged me to not give up and to keep trying to reach my goal,” Houston said.

Houston hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree one day, but is also relishing in her accomplishments.

“It’s never too late to reach for your dreams,” Houston said. “Degree programs are created to let you go right out of school and get a job. You just have to give your dreams a direction.”

This story can also be found in the May 17, 2014 edition of the Tempe Republic. By Mira Radovich, Communications Coordinator at Rio Salado College.