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WGU Graduate Speaker, Erica Martin-Cole, Summer 2013

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WGU Graduate Speaker, Erica Martin-Cole, Summer 2013
Western Governors University
<p>WGU Class of Summer 2013 graduate Erica Martin-Coleis from Bushkill, Pennsylvania, and earned her B.S. in IT—Security from Western Governors University. Her first foray into college education was in the performing arts, but through her years of working in various fields she recognized the "computer nerd" hiding inside her. But she spent 15 years working jobs that didn't lead where she wanted to go, always "allowing life's distractions to stop me." WGU gave her the opportunity to earn her degree despite those distractions—and her mentor helped her stick with it when the going got tough. Now she has that long-awaited bachelor's degree and is coming back to WGU to earn her master's.</p> <p>Erica Martin-Cole earned her Bachelor of Science, Information Technology degree.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>First of all I would like to say hello to my kids at home. Hi, [Inaudible], Xavier, and David, and Mom, I love you. President Mendenhall, faculty, honorary guests, family and friends of graduates, it is such an honor to be here today amongst these WGU graduates who represent a segment in our country's population that will stand against all odds to achieve their goals.</p> <p>Graduates, we have had every reason thrown at us under the sun that would dictate why we should not be here, but yet, we are. We represent those who refused to quit. Those who refused to say, "It's not the right time. Maybe next year." Those who understand that their education, their lives, their goals, their dreams are too important to let anything stand in their way of moving forward. WGU Graduates, let's give ourselves a round of applause. [Applause]</p> <p>That's where my WGU story begins. For 15 years, I have been allowing life's distractions to stop me. Out of high school my excuse for not going to college was, well, I'm burnt out and I need a break. Well, I didn't want to be a bad college student, so I felt it's not the right time. Maybe next year. A couple years passed, and then I said, "Okay, well, it's time." Well while I worked as an administrative assistant, I enrolled into evening college classes to start my general education courses while I tried to find myself. And I landed what I thought was a great job as an executive assistant.</p> <p>My boss promised me that I would run the place if I dedicated all my time to the company and postponing school seemed to be the best choice in furthering my career. Well, being young, I quit school. Two years later, the owner sold the company and we found ourselves without jobs. I tried attending various schools including three online schools from well-known universities, but every time I tried to attend, life events got in the way and I had an excuse as to why it wasn't the right time.</p> <p>Between becoming pregnant with my first and second child, managing work, and a household, and every other life event that seems critical at the time, I would quit hoping the right time would come around again. When I thought the right time had finally arrived, I applied to WGU. I met my mentor and successfully completed my first semester. However seven months later during the downturn of the economy, I was laid off from my job and found out I was pregnant with my third child one week later. From being laid off we had a host of financial troubles including threats of foreclosure, car repossession, simply putting food on the table, and each of these events pushed me against the gate where I thought the best sound advice would be to put school aside until the right time comes around again.</p> <p>Each time my mentor pushed me to hold on and to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. No longer having just a job to pay the bills but a lifetime career that can change my family's life. But my grandmother became terminally ill from cancer, which by the way was the woman that pretty much raised me while my single mother worked weekends and weekdays to support us, my mentor kept me focused and she passed away four months later. Four days before my birthday. And we buried her one day after my birthday. When my youngest was born four months later after that, I had a 10 year old, an 18 month old, and a newborn to care for along with a house, a part-time job, and a school all demanding my attention. My husband and mother, they weren't home during the weekdays and both of our family and friends were out of state. Those mommy support groups were an hour away. Only on weekends were my husband and mother able to give me a break. And when I was given a break, I crammed it with schoolwork just to keep pace.</p> <p>My mentor was there to keep me focused on the light at the end of that tunnel. I was ready to throw in the towel many times, because I thought I was at the edge of my sanity. And when I sat my darling husband down and told him I was ready to quit, he told me, he said, "Keep going. You are too close to finishing something you were meant to do and you have so much to look forward to. This is what will make you happy." From that point forward every obstacle that was thrown at me and my family was used as a stepping-stone. I started to realize that it is so easy to quit, but it takes so much more to keep going.</p> <p>I was tired of the excuses. I was tired of quitting. The other schools I have attempted to go to prior to WGU had support that was near non-existent. I don't think I could even imagine to being close to finishing my degree without my mentor, Francisco Ortiz, somewhere you're hiding. Thank you. [Applause] And Holly Skillman Daugherty, who provided plenty of mother-to-mother advice on how to cope when wearing way too many hats. Thank you, Holly. [Applause]</p> <p>And WGU because of the way they delivered their education. I have flexibility to go through my tornado of problems while trying to find ways to finish my classes. But it was all about sticking with it and focusing on the light, because eventually you will arrive at the end of that tunnel. Now I'm enrolling in the master's program this fall. [Applause]</p> <p>Is it the right time? Absolutely not. [Laughter] It will never be the right time. It's only a matter of if you want something enough to get through life's uncertainties without quitting. That's the valuable lesson the WGU experience has given me to apply to all of my life endeavors. Congratulations, graduates, on your success, and may you continue to have success on all your future endeavors. Never give up. Never surrender. Thank you.</p> <p>[Applause]</p>
Western Governors University
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Original Format: 
Commencement Video
Digital Format: 
MP4 (Moving Picture Experts Group)