Columbia College-Lake of the Ozarks posts graduate stories prior to April 29 commencement ceremony

Earlier this month, Columbia College-Lake of the Ozarks students who will graduate on April 29 were asked to reflect on their experience at the college. Here are some of our favorites.Thanks to everyone who sent in their stories. Best of luck to all our graduates!

It made me laugh when you asked for my story! If I told you my 52 years of life; you wouldn't believe all of it nor would you have time to grasp it!! Anyway, I wanted to go to college right after high school but it wasn't possible. So I attend cosmetology college and have been a stylist for 33 years. I have owned my own salon for 26 years. I ended up being a single mom to 2 daughters and raising the girls was the ride of my life!!! A true learning experience. During the time I was raising my children, my mother slipped into the world of Alzheimer’s and required much of my attention. Consequently, my life was split between raising the girls, running my business, and attending to the needs of my mother. But one day I looked up and the smoke had cleared. My children were grown, my mother passed away and once I realized I had completed taking care of my responsibilities; life was now about me. I went to check out Columbia College and four and a half years later I am graduating. I have continued to run my business full time and attended college full time!!

The important people of my college journey has been my salon clients that have been so supportive, my brother Steve and his wife Marion, my daughter Julie and her husband Franky, and my grandchildren. But the most important person to me in getting my college degree was my mother. My mother has been the person that I have admired the most my whole life. Even though she has been gone for several years she is very much alive in my heart. Earning my college degree is in honor of my mother.
Kathy Garner
Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, May 2012

My journey was a long one, but I enjoyed it for the most part. My obstacles along the way would include working full time and taking care of my children full time as well as the insane amount of homework required in some classes but by far my biggest obstacle was when my house burned to the ground as I sat in a class - that was a tough one to overcome. People that have been important to me along the way would definitely include Dr. Keeney, Cathy Whitfield, Jim Pasley (for somehow making me enjoy history :) ) and Gay Christy, thank you all for you amazing ability & passion to teach you have made my journey one that I don't want to end and boy have I drug it out ha-ha thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

Tina Baldwin
Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration, May 2012
magna cum laude
Sigma Beta Delta Inductee

I am a military student currently stationed at Fort Leonard Wood. I have completed all but one course online. I started my pursuit of a degree in 2002 when I entered the new eArmyU program. Back then they didn't offer many degrees or colleges to attend. I enrolled in Central Texas College and began work for an Associate Degree in Business Management. Due to military duties, field time, a deployment to Iraq, and many unforeseen scheduling conflicts it took what seemed like forever to complete my Associates Degree, but I finally did it in 2007. I decided to go ahead and work towards a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration and chose Columbia College because my wife Becky is an aluma. Again, many challenges popped up over the four years it took me to complete my degree. Throughout my time going to college my family increased in size from just me and my wife to three kids. Trying to complete school while working full time and raising very young children is quite a challenge, but I have managed to stay on course.

Along the way I have had a few people give me some great guidance. The counselors from the Ft. Leonard Wood office have been awesome, and so have the college reps from the Lake office that I have talked to since scheduling graduation there. Everyone at Columbia College has always gone out of their way to ensure that anything I needed has been taken care of. For that I am proud to say that I will be an alumni of this great school.

Jason Andreasen
Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, May 2012

Well during my first year in my BA program I had to overcome 2 surgeries, one of which was planned and one was emergency surgery. I could not have done this without the love and support of my fellow students and my teachers. Columbia College has some of the most kind and compassionate personnel out there, and it makes all the difference in the world when it comes to situations like these. My family was there for me, which I expected, but my teachers were there for me to, and that I didn't expect. My advisor has also gone out of her way to make my life easier during the last 6 months, and has always been able and available to answer questions for me. Almost every staff member has diligently taken time to care for me personally whether it was required or not. They did not pass me off to someone else like I was a burden or a waste of their time, and that is important. It's nice to be treated like an important part of the equation and a person at that...and that's how I felt here at Columbia College, like an important person!

Shellie Gavette
Bachelor of Arts in Human Services, May 2012

My name is Alaina Hoyt, and I am graduating in April with my Bachelor of Arts in History degree. I originally applied to Columbia College directly following high school, but given my degree choice at the time (Journalism) when I was accepted at Mizzou, I opted for that education instead. Following a year at Mizzou, I found myself unsatisfied with my choice of degree and my career path. Over the summer I took the time to step back and reflect on what I really wanted to do with my life. I decided to change my Bachelor's Degree to one in History, and moved back home to the Lake to continue my education. I spent a year at State Fair Community College completing my general education courses and some beginning level history classes. I transferred to the Columbia College Lake campus my junior year of college, and could not be more pleased with the quality and direction my education has taken since the change.

Perhaps the greatest influence on my schooling and my degree in particular is my Professor James Pasley, who has taught almost all of my upper level history courses. I find his methods of teaching engaging and informative, as well as extremely open to opinion and discussion. He is as eager as his students to learn more about the subject he teaches. Throughout the course of our student-teacher relationship, his love of History has spilled over onto me, keeping my love and respect for my degree field as well. I would not be where I am today in my educational experience without his guidance and support.

I am so excited to have found the degree that was meant for me, and to share my university education with Columbia College. Thank you so much.


Alaina Hoyt
Bachelor of Arts in History, May 2012

Well, my college journey started long before I came to Columbia College. I first attended East Central College (ECC), located in Union, Mo., back in 2001. My major was business management with a double major in marketing. I was a single mom and 20yrs old. I was unable to manage my time between working, motherhood, and school, so I stopped going to college.

I found myself unemployed, divorced, and with three children when I decided enough was enough! I knew I had to do something to better my life and provide better for my children. So, I went back to ECC and asked for help getting back in college. The advisor talked with me and helped me realize my passion lied in psychology. I changed my major and continued my journey in 2010.

I never saw coming what happened next. I fell in love. This time was different and so much more special. I was torn between staying in the hometown I loved and finish college there or move here to be with this amazing guy God sent into my life. Well, with a little push (more like a shove) from God, we made the move to Laurie, Mo. I have now given birth to my fourth child and acquired two step-children and a granddaughter along the way.

Columbia College made me feel right at home almost instantly. Thelma helped me get my credits in order and see which avenue I should take to get to where I want to be. Mr. Arthur has been a tremendous help along the way. He not only helped restore my faith in myself, but God as well. You just can't repay that. I am thankful for every teacher I've had, for each one has helped me grow in some way. I have even learned a bit about solar ovens and gardening from Dr. Kercher. These are all things that have changed my life in some way, outside of the school doors.

I am looking forward to April 29th, for it will be my first time in a cap and gown. I will continue with Columbia College in the fall and work on obtaining my B.A. in Psychology. This College is loaded with a staff that is truly genuine in their devotion to helping others succeed! I was terrified to move here, now I don't know if I'd be stepping on this stone if I hadn't. Thank you to all of you!

Audrey Sheppard
Associate of Science in Human Services – May, 2012

My story;) My name is Amy Sperry. I am 32 years old, married with three sons! We moved to Osage Beach 3 years ago to be closer to my husband’s truck driving job. It was always in the back of my mind to finish college but having children always seemed to get me sidetracked. When we moved here and I no longer had to work the normal 9-5 I decided it was now or never to make it happen. My children mean more to me than anything and I wanted to show them that if you put your mind to it you can accomplish it all! My 10 year old son was officially through his school this month actually, diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome which is on the Autism Spectrum. I know he has a harder time in school and I want to show him that even though it may be hard work, the end result is worth it. I wanted to be a part in as much of their school activities and day to day life as possible so I chose online classes. I finished my Associate of Arts this month and I have been accepted to Eckerd College in St. Petersburg Florida where I will finish my bachelors in Marine Biology. It hasn't been the easiest two years and at times I have desperately wanted to just throw my hands up and yell "I quit!!" I have had to deal with testing schedules with my husband gone a lot and trying to get all of my work done while the boys are in school. It was about a 10 year + gap since the last I attended any type of college and studying that much was not easy! lol It will be a big change when we move to Florida and I have to attend actual classes, but I feel in the end it will be worth finally having that degree!! If it weren’t for Columbia, I probably would not have been able to achieve any of this and would have that emptiness inside knowing I could have done something more with my life to make my family proud!! Thank you Columbia for my start back into reaching my goal!!!

Amy Sperry
Associate in Science