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WGU Graduate Speaker, Cherie Watkins

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WGU Graduate Speaker, Cherie Watkins
Western Governors University
<p>WGU Commencement in Austin, Texas on October 12, 2019. Cherie Watkins earned her Master of Science, Nursing - Nursing Informatics Degree.</p> <p>Cherie Watkins: Good morning. My name is Cherie Watkins. Today I'm accepting two degrees, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and a Master of Science in Nursing Informatics. Perhaps like some of you, I entered my chosen profession in an attempt to recover from some of the irresponsible behaviors of my youth. The day after I turned 19, I became a mother and not coming from a family of means, found myself limited in terms of opportunities. </p> <p>While this is by no means a unique situation, it is worth noting that less than two percent of teenage mothers earn a college degree of any sort. Even fewer go on to earn a master's degree or higher. We are so few, in fact, that I couldn't find any research or information to illustrate the journey traveled by others like me. I was a statistic. Now I defy the statistics. I also had to pass statistics, but let's not get into that. [Laughter] It's dark times. </p> <p>I never doubted my ability to apply myself and achieve nearly impossible goals, but becoming a mother right out of high school was a struggle. And college seemed like a luxury set aside for well heeled kids who wanted to goof off before going into the real world. After two more kids, a divorce, and remarriage to an abusive alcoholic, I couldn't have been more of a statistic. I had wasted so much time being afraid but I knew that a degree was our only ticket out, so I enrolled in a local nursing school. </p> <p>The abuse and the struggle continued and one day I ran out of excuses. I was forced to make a change. I left the toxic relationship and recommitted myself to completing my RN. I'm still so proud of that associate's degree. It's a trophy that recognizes so much more than what's printed on it; it's a testament to my resilience. </p> <p>I thought I was done after walking across that stage. I believed my education to be complete. But then God, lover of my soul, saw fit to give me a special gift. He allowed me to love and marry again, this time to a man who makes me feel respected, important, valued. He's here in the audience today. Thank you, Lyle, for always loving me, and always supporting me. [Applause] You shared no list of ways that I needed refinement, you simply loved me, and you empowered me to go back to school. </p> <p>Enter Western Governors University. Education was not part of my family background. I did not grow up with parents who were highly educated or expected that I would be. But Lyle helped me see how important education truly is, and I wanted to pass that vision along to my own children. Not to mention that he has two master's degrees, and I'm competitive as all get out. [Laughter] </p> <p>So when Lyle encouraged me to do this thing for myself, to go back to school, I went looking for the school that would allow me to make higher education part of my own story. That school was WGU. Willful resilience, coupled with WGU's opportunity for accelerated learning, allowed me to complete 69 CUs in just six months and three days. [Applause] Thank you. The competency based program allowed me to work at my own pace which was fast; on my own time, in my own way. My infinitely supportive mentor, Alana, cheered me on as I canon balled through my coursework. But it did not come without sacrifice. There were late nights, too many meals in front of a computer, date nights deferred in favor of tweaking my APA format. And I wasn't enjoying afternoon naps with any sort of regularity, but I had a worthy goal, and my aim was true. </p> <p>I always knew I deserved more. I was brave enough to demand it, and disciplined enough to work hard for it. I was a statistic, and now I'm the exception. I'm a teen mother who now has a master's degree. I'm working as a nephrology nurse in a career I love. And in February, I'm coming back to WGU for a second master's degree, my MBA in health care management. [Cheers and applause] I hope to make the health care workplace as nurturing an environment for the people who do the caring as it is for the people who are cared for. </p> <p>Health care is changing, nursing is changing. WGU is preparing me to assist in leading the way. It's also helping me keep up with my husband's two master's degrees, but it's not a competition. [Laughter] It is. It's on, babe. [Laughter] </p> <p>With my mentor's support, and my husband's encouragement, today I'm realizing a dream. My firstborn is here to see his mom walk across the commencement stage. He joined the Air Force just before my graduation from community college. And though he was able to watch remotely, it's always been my secret wish that he see me walk in person someday. This is that moment. [Applause] </p> <p>As we move forward, we should take upon ourselves the role of mentor, identify co workers and peers who need just a little more encouragement to reach their goals. If we're in management, we can find extra time to give to employees so that they can study or prepare for an exam. If we have peers who are seeking a degree in our area of expertise, we can offer time as mentor or tutor. We can read and critique their papers. Whatever role you play, you can help someone else realize their dreams, no matter how statistically unlikely those dreams might seem. </p> <p>Thank you to those who are members of my support group, especially Alana, Lyle, and all my kiddos. This is for you guys. Congratulations class of 2019. [Cheers and applause] </p>
Western Governors University
© 2019 Western Governors University – WGU. All Rights Reserved.
Original Format: 
Commencement Video
Digital Format: 
MP4 (Moving Picture Experts Group)