Working three jobs in San Francisco while juggling the responsibilities of a husband and child and riding public transportation between jobs, Lisa Long decided she needed to make a life change.
“I was sleeping two hours a night,” Mrs. Long said about taking college classes in San Francisco. “With working less, I didn’t have money to pay rent.”
The couple moved back to Fostoria, closer to Mrs. Long’s husband’s family. That’s when she enrolled at Owens Community College, and four years later, she has graduated summa cum laude. One of the 768 students in the graduating class, she was chosen as its representative and graduation speaker.
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“It is surreal,” the 30-year-old early childhood education technology major said. “I can’t believe it is happening. I probably will be in denial until the degree comes.”
She gave that speech Friday at Owens’ 48th annual spring commencement at the Perrysburg Township campus. The graduates also heard from keynote speaker Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith French, who received a bachelor’s, master’s and law degree from Ohio State University.
“[Justice French was] giving them great insight and advice to move on,” said Betsy Johnson, vice president of student services for Owens. “It shows the fact Owens Community College has a strong institution in northwest Ohio that we can get a [keynote speaker] of that caliber and leadership.”
Mrs. Long spoke to the students about how thankful they all should be for graduating while balancing life, school, and work. She was a student teacher at WSOS Community Action Head Start, where she hopes to land a full-time job.
As the first in her family to go to college, she said it was important to show her two boys know how important school is.
“I felt lost at school because it wasn’t important to my family,” Mrs. Long said. “I realized it was important to me and to instill in my children that it is the path to knowledge and greatness.”
Ms. Johnson said Mrs. Long was tapped as the commencement speaker because of her perseverance, dedication, and motivation.
“Tonight is why I do what I do,” Ms. Johnson said about the ceremony. “To see ... nervous students juggling work, school, and family persist to get a degree — that’s why I do it.”