ELYRIA – The stories of how and why people chose Lorain County Community College and the institution’s place in their lives are unique and personal. There is no such thing as the traditional or common LCCC student.
Here are four short stories about LCCC graduates that took part in Saturday’s 54th annual commencement ceremony at the college’s Ewing Activities Center.
Iosanna Santiago, 29, of Elyria
Iosanna Santiago was very emotional, nearly to the point of tears moments after she graduated Saturday from Lorain County Community College.
Family and friends snapped photos of Santiago as she clutched a bouquet of balloons and smiled with watery eyes.
“I worked so hard to get to where I am at today,” she said. “It’s nice to know that I am halfway there.”
Santiago called graduation a big milestone in her life. She worked fulltime while attending classes part-time. A graduate of Oberlin High School, Santiago said work was her focus for so many years.
“I’ve always been independent and I have always worked 40 hours or more a week,” she said. “Working fulltime and going to school has been a big achievement for me. Actually being here in this moment feels good.”
Her future goals to work in long-term health care administration means helping the elderly and families, something Santiago said she is passionate about. She also wants a family of her own, but wanted to check college graduate off her To-Do list first, she said.
Next up, Santiago said she will return to school full time to receive a bachelor’s degree in science.
LueVenia D. Bailey, 48, of Lorain
LueVenia Bailey is a proud mom.
For many years, her three daughters, now all adults, kept her busy, kept her focused and kept her away from college.
“I was waiting for my youngest one to start high school,” said the 48-year-old mother. “When she started high school, I started college because I actually got sick and lost my job at Teletech when I became a diabetic. I hurried up and decided to go to school.”
LueVenia D. Bailey
Saturday, Bailey earned two degrees and two certificates from Lorain County Community College. Her daughters, now ages 30, 26 and 20, watched as their mother joined the class of 2018.
Bailey said it took her 25 years to get back into school. It was a hard transition, she said.
“But I just felt like I needed an education to get a better job,” she said. “My daughters’ just asked me if now I am stopping. I said not until I get my bachelor’s.”
Walker Snowden, 21, of Elyria
Walker Snowden never really thought he was going to go to college.
He graduated from the online school, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), a class late and then started working factory jobs.
“When I failed high school my senior year and then was given the chance to go back and get my high school diploma, I knew I had to go to college,” he said. “Having that year after failing high school made me realize how important education really is.”
Snowden said he decided then that his long held dreams of being in the finance world, possibly as a hedge fund manager could only happen if he got up and got back into school.
“In the grand scheme of things, I will at least need my master’s degree,” he said Saturday at Lorain County Community College. “I knew the first step was just getting the associate’s degree.”
In the fall, Snowden plans to enroll at Kent State University, where he will major in finance.
Charlotte Gawelek, 53, of North Ridgeville
Charlotte Gawelek’s path to graduation started about five years ago.
She said she can thank her kids for the push.
“My children encouraged me because they started going to college and told me they were all going to leave the nest and it was time for me to start doing something for me,” she said Saturday.
Gawelek said she started slow, just taking one or two classes at a time. Nursing piqued her interest initially.
“I just kept going and being encouraged by my family and here I am,” she said.
Looking back on the time right after her own high school graduation, Gawelek said she was derailed when she couldn’t get financial aid.
“I wasn’t encouraged so I left that dream behind,” she said.
Her life then took a traditional turn as she became a stay-at-home mother of three. Her youngest is now 19.
Saturday, she received an associate’s of applied sciences degree and a one-year certificate for medical assistance.
She plans to return to Lorain County Community College through the University Partnership to receive a bachelor’s degree. Her goal is to continue her education and ultimately work in healthcare administration.