PERRYSBURG TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Seven hundred forty Owens Community College students recently realized their educational goals and dreams as they were awarded degrees in various academic disciplines during the academic institution’s 47th annual Spring Commencement ceremony.
For 67-year-old Mary Visco of Holland, a landscape and turfgrass management major, Spring Commencement represents the beginning of a second career involving her passion – horticulture.
“Graduation represents a whole new life for me,” stated Visco, who was previously a self-employed business owner for 35 years. “I always had the desire to want to learn about horticulture and Owens allowed my passion to become a reality. My desire to learn far outweighed any anxiety of returning to school in my 60s.”
Visco, who already holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Toledo, can now add an associate’s degree to her educational attainment and a new career as a part-time horticulturalist at the Toledo Botanical Garden.
Tiffin resident and business management technology major Julia Parkins, age 17, views graduation as the first step toward her ultimate goal of a career in marketing.
“Hard work pays offs,” explained Parkins, who is obtaining her associate’s degree prior to graduating from Tiffin Columbian High School in June. “I am a go getter and Owens has afforded me great opportunities to pursue a college education while in high school.”
After completing her education at Owens and Tiffin Columbian, Parkins will attend The Ohio State University in the fall and set her sights on a bachelor’s degree in marketing.
“Graduating from Owens begins a new chapter in my life and for my family,” stated 30-year-old Nichole Aldrich of Gibsonburg. “I lost my job when the factory that I was working at closed. My education is allowing me to start a new career as a dental hygienist where I will not only be able to help but also educate people about dental health.”
For Aldrich, an Honors Program Scholar, obtaining her associate’s degree in dental hygiene would not have been possible without the support of her loving family.
“My family means the world to me. They have played a huge part in my success,” she concluded.
Robert W. LaClair, President and CEO of Fifth Third Bank (Northwestern Ohio), served as the keynote speaker for the College’s Spring Commencement and provided the graduates with some words of encouragement as they embark on many new life-changing adventures.
“You are all going to find that your success, your happiness and your place in life will all be determined not by where you grew up, how much money you or your family had or didn’t have, your ACT score or your GPA, but from the choices you will make,” LaClair stated. “You are leaving Owens today better prepared to make those life and career choices that when you first arrived. I’m sure of that.”
Additionally, Bradley W. Higgs, a criminal justice student, was selected as the Owens class representative and addressed the graduates during the Spring Commencement ceremony.
Higgs’ speech highlighted the challenges he and his fellow graduates have overcome to realize their dreams and goals.
“I know that each of you have had barriers and obstacles to overcome, but by God’s grace you have succeeded, and our graduating from Owens is just one of the joys that we shall enjoy in a life full of successful accomplishments,” stated Higgs. “Give yourselves a round of applause Class of 2013. We did it!”
Higgs grew up in Toledo and was kicked out of his house at the age of 10 along with his three younger siblings. They were homeless and made money washing cars and pumping gas. Eventually, the four children were picked up by the police and placed in foster homes.
At the age of 15, Higgs was adopted along with his 14-year-old sister by their oldest sister, who was 21 at the time. By the time he was 16, he started to get into trouble and by 19 he had been arrested and was serving time in prison.
After serving his sentence, he became reacquainted with religion and changed his life in a Volunteers of America halfway house. Soon after, he enrolled at Owens.
Higgs, who holds a GED Diploma, never forgot his experience at the halfway house and went back to volunteer at Volunteers of America. Eventually, he was hired and promoted by the outreach organization. He is now the Front Desk Security Supervisor at the Chestnut Hill Apartments in Toledo.
The 35-year-old has a 3.8 grade point average and is graduating Magna Cum Laude from Owens.
Higgs credits his success to the support and encouragement of the faculty at Owens, especially Wayne Seely and Angela Ondrus. The support of his family was also a critical part of his success, including his daughter, Alasha, who is also an honors student in middle school.
The Toledo resident plans on continuing his education and transferring to a four-year college or university this fall with the goal of obtaining a bachelor’s degree in social work. Ultimately, his goal is to work with juvenile offenders.
Owens Community College is an accredited two-year, state-assisted institution of higher education that has served Northwest Ohio since 1965. With a commitment to providing small classes, personal attention and unmatched affordability, the College serves the diverse academic needs of credit and non-credit students on the Toledo-area and Findlay-area campuses, as well as at the Arrowhead Park Learning Center in Maumee and the Learning Center at The Source in downtown Toledo. Owens offers associate degrees that transfer to baccalaureate degrees in the Arts and Sciences and over 130 technical program areas in Agriculture, Business, Health Sciences, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Skilled Trades, and Engineering and Transportation Technologies. Owens students also can earn the first two years of a bachelor’s degree with a smooth transfer to any area four-year college or university. For more information, visit www.owens.edu.