A family affair

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At 50 years old and recently divorced, Jill Sansom was yearning for some positive change in her life – and found it in an unexpected way.

As the mother of an 18-year-old who recently graduated high school, Jill focused on preparing her daughter, Briana, for college. After reviewing the program offerings and costs of area colleges and universities, Briana chose Mountwest Community & Technical College for the affordability and Respiratory Therapy program. After helping Briana with enrollment and attending orientation, Jill, like many adults across the country, was inspired to go back to school herself.

“I was worried that it would bother Briana, so I talked to her about it first,” Jill said. “I told her that I would remain in the background and not advertise that we were both attending Mountwest, but it ended up never being an issue.”

In the fall of 2010, the mother-daughter duo enrolled for their first college semester. Jill began as a non-degree student, intending to refresh her IT knowledge. She admits that she was concerned that she might have trouble learning a whole new career, but the excitement of something new kept her from holding anything back.

Both Jill and Briana soon found that attending college together had many perks. From a practicality standpoint, carpooling saved them hundreds of dollars in gas money. But more than that, their relationship grew even stronger. Briana said she really enjoyed spending more time with her mom, and Jill was thrilled to share this experience with her daughter, gaining a study buddy and accountability partner.

“As I was helping her as a mom with her new adventure as a college student, I began learning answers to her questions and mine,” Jill said. “Sharing the experience gave us something in common to work together toward, and with me being a student, I had a better grasp of what was going on in Briana’s life, which made our relationship stronger.”

After taking some introductory classes, Briana soon switched her major to Pharmacy Technician. After graduation, she secured a job at Griffith & Feil Drug Store in Kenova. Jill earned a certificate in Deaf Studies and a Board of Governors Associate Degree. She’s currently working as an Administrative Assistant for Allied Health at Mountwest and will complete her Administrative Assistant – Executive Associate Degree in December.

Both Briana and Jill can’t help but smile when reflecting on their graduation day.

“I was so proud of her,” Jill exclaimed. “I wanted graduation to be about her, but for us to graduate at the same time was a very special time for us, and something I will never forget.”

Briana shared the same sentiment. “Walking across the stage with my mom at graduation was a great memory that I will always cherish,” she said. “We both endured difficult times, but in the end, we both found success and happiness.”

The Kaul family is also making higher education a family affair. James Kaul graduated from Mountwest in May with an Associate Degree in Engineering Design Technology and as the Student Government Association President. While he’s job searching and pursuing his bachelor’s degree, his wife, Joanie, is gearing up for her first semester at Mountwest.

James, like Jill, was a little hesitant to return to college as an adult. “I didn’t want to be that stereotypical older guy surrounded by kids,” James said. “However, as soon as I walked onto campus, I realized that I was in the majority; there were plenty of fresh high school graduates, but overall, the community is a little older and more mature.”

His decision to return to school was largely motivated by his daughter and the desire to make a better life for his family. “To provide her with the opportunity to do well, I felt like I had to invest in my own earning potential,” James said. “Mountwest offered quality programs geared toward regional industries, and the value per dollar was the best in the area.”

The plan was always for Joanie to follow in James’ footsteps, but Joanie said that having her husband go first has really helped her see all of the resources that Mountwest has to offer. It even inspired her to participate in Student Government as a way of giving back to the school that has allowed her family new opportunities.

Both James and Joanie attempted college right out of high school but said they felt unprepared and overwhelmed in a four-year university setting. “It felt like a mass production facility, never stopping to get to know the people who are supposed to help you build your future,” James said. “At Mountwest, it was different – you are guided, advised, and still feel like a person, not a number, at the end of each day.

James remarked that his professors at Mountwest took the time to not only learn his name, but also his personality, likes, hobbies, etc., which he says professors often used to tweak lessons to help students better understand and apply the material. He said his success at Mountwest was greatly fostered by the relationships he developed with the faculty and staff, noting that they know where students are coming from and where they’re going as many of them have been there themselves.

Joanie will begin classes this fall in the American Sign Language program, and she can’t wait to get started. “I’ve found a field that I love and can greatly benefit from,” she said. “Taking the ASL courses will help me advance in my current position at work and offer a service that is desperately needed in my field.”

Scenarios like these are unfolding all over the United States – every day. It’s happening at Mountwest, and it can happen for you and your family. It’s never too late to establish a family tradition that emphasizes the importance of education.

We take pride in Mountwest being known as a “friendly college.”  From the many comments that we’ve received about our caring and committed faculty to the encouragement we see by the students to their peers, we’re all here to help you succeed.  Mountwest boasts a friendly and upbeat atmosphere with the resources you need to complete your education.

We know that our region has a very high concentration of people who have started college, and for whatever reason, not finished.  We cater to those individuals with programs that can very easily help them transition back into college, get financial aid, and on their way to earning a degree or certification.  And many times, it’s their own family that provides the motivation and accountability to “pick it back up.” Additionally, we have award-winning programs specifically geared toward the veterans in our community.

A college education from Mountwest can lead to a lifetime of higher earnings, job security in a skilled workforce and pride in knowing that you achieved your educational goals.  The path to a better tomorrow starts with a college education.  There’s nothing stopping you, and it’s never been easier or more affordable.

We’ve had mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and sons, even grandparents and their grandchildren attending Mountwest – all to better themselves and all on the path to a fantastic tomorrow.

The next time you and your family take a minute together, be it over dinner, at the movies, or at the grocery store, think of Jill and Briana and their exciting adventure to find success together, or James and Joanie who made the decision to improve their family’s quality of life and be better role models for their daughter. It could be you. No matter your interests, age, or past experience, Mountwest has a program for you. Dream bigger. Climb higher. Enroll today!

To enroll, call 1.866.676.5533.

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