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WGU Graduate Speaker, Kara Nelson, Summer 2014

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WGU Graduate Speaker, Kara Nelson, Summer 2014
Western Governors University
<p>Kara Nelson earned her special education degree online at Western Governors University at age 38 -- because "life happened, and not as expected." She celebrated her success as a commencement speaker at the online, nonprofit, accredited university's 27th semiannual commencement in Salt Lake City on July 12, 2014.</p> <p>Kara Nelson earned a Bachelor of Arts, Special Education degree.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>I can hardly believe I'm here. This is a little bit surreal, and I'm going to cry already. Oh, no. Okay, there's Kleenex, okay, all right. It may not always feel like it, but life has a funny way of putting you exactly where you're supposed to be at exactly the right time. If you would have told me when I was an 18-year-old high school senior that I would graduate from an online university as a 38-year-old mother of three who's been married for 19 years, I would have told you you were crazy because, to start with, 38 was really old. [Laughter]</p> <p>Also, it would have meant that I would have been married half of my life before I received my bachelor's degree, and there was absolutely no way I was going to have three children because kids were way too much work. Not to mention the fact, and I'm sure many of you can probably relate to this, but when I was 18, I carried my cellphone shaped like, and weighing as much as a brick in a huge, black bag with a giant antenna. So the idea of going to school on the internet would have seemed like science fiction.</p> <p>Turns out that 38 is not nearly as old as I thought it would be, thank goodness. Having three awesome kids is a lot of work, but it is totally worth it. Being married half of my life is pretty great because I have an amazing husband, and my cellphone with the internet now fits in my pocket. So I suppose anything is possible.</p> <p>So you might be asking yourself, "How did she end up as a 38-year-old, first-time college graduate?" Well, the story goes like this: Life happened and not as expected. I've spent a lot of the past 20 years trying to figure out who I am and fighting some major self-confidence demons. I paid too much attention to that little voice that filled me with self-doubt and terrified me that I would fail miserably if I tried to go back to school yet again.</p> <p>I also let myself get knocked down too many times by choosing to listen to the few who had negative opinions about me. I remember one major life changing moment when I chose to listen to a music teacher my second year of college, who informed me I would never be a teacher because I could not read music. I dropped out of college for the first time not long after because that one flippant comment reaffirmed what I already believed about myself: I wasn't smart enough.</p> <p>Well, I did graduate from college as a teacher with a recognition of excellence award on the Elementary Education Praxis, too, and also as a member of Kappa Delta Pi, an international honor's society for educators, but I still can't read music. [Applause] Fortunately, I have had some important life lessons that have helped me develop a passion that was stronger than my fears. This passion gave me the courage to face my fears head-on by enrolling in college one more time, and it came from an unexpected source, my kids.</p> <p>Any parent out there knows that having children is like a refiner's fire. Parenting is where you learn what you are really made of. Parenting amplifies your weaknesses and helps you build some serious emotional strength. I think I've learned more about myself as a parent than my kids have learned from my parenting.</p> <p>My kids have been fundamental in helping me understand who I am. McKenna, my oldest, is 16. Through her example, she has taught me to expect the best from myself but to be satisfied with my best efforts without being myself up for my shortcomings. Ava, my youngest, is almost eight. She is fearless and feisty. Ava shows me daily how to attack life with joy, a little bit of sass, and a lot of determination. Lucas, my only son, is 13. He taught me how to be a teacher.</p> <p>I asked him if I could share his story with you because he is really why I am here today. [Cries]) Dang it, okay. Lucas has a learning disability that he has struggled with all of his life. Together, we have worked unimaginably hard to help him master simple things that many people take for granted. It has not been an easy process. There have been times that I literally thought there would be blood, along with the sweat and tears we both shed.</p> <p>Along the way, Lucas has taught me how to be the teacher he needed me to be to help him succeed. If it were not for this amazing son of mine, I would never have developed the passion to teach. I know that having a disability has been frustrating and heartbreaking for him at times, but I have been amazed by Lucas' kindness, courage, work ethic, and determination. I would not change him for the world. I know that I will be able to help many students with disabilities to achieve great things because of what I have learned from Lucas.</p> <p>My husband, Mark, has been my most cherished companion and champion these past two years. I could not have done this without him. He has become our home's project manager, homework helper, laundry man, to my chagrin, but that's okay, a master pizza maker on top of his fulltime job. He has also been my editor-in-chief, computer repairman, and many times, my therapist. Most importantly, he has been my steady force keeping my feet going in the right direction. I know that earning my degree was just as important to him as it was to me, and I am so grateful for his sacrifice to help me achieve it. [Applause]</p> <p>I am also incredibly grateful for my student mentor, Diane [Inaudible], who was determined to help me see myself in a different light. Diane was a dedicated cheerleader and my lifeline to sanity. Most of all, she never, ever, ever let me feel sorry for myself. I am grateful to have had her in my life during such an intense time of growth and to have such a dear friend for life.</p> <p>I have often thought about the fact that I never intended to be this old when I finally graduated from college, but I am so grateful for the detours and character-building obstacles I have been blessed with, that have helped me understand who I am. I am here today as a WGU graduate because of the love and support of many people. I have learned to embrace my fighting spirit and discovered my own strength and fortitude to meet my fears head-on, even if it took me a little while to figure it out.</p> <p>Like most of you, I have been knocked down a time or two or three, but I've gotten up and tried again. I am so grateful to be here today celebrating our success.</p> <p>[Applause]</p>
Western Governors University
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Original Format: 
Commencement Video
Digital Format: 
MP4 (Moving Picture Experts Group)