Lauren Dell’s message to anyone who has given some thought about attending college is simple: it’s never too late.
That was especially true Saturday, May 12, at East Central College’s commencement, when Dell, 61, of St. Clair, not only was awarded her Associate of Arts Degree with a focus on education, but she received it alongside her daughter, Rachel Rodman, 27, Gerald.
“I come from a family of well-educated people, but I was married at 18 years old and had to raise my kids,” Dell said. “I wanted my family — my kids and grandkids to realize that it’s never too late.”
Dell believes both she and her daughter’s stories are proof that it’s never too late to earn a degree, no matter what the circumstances.
After Dell and Rodman tried a stint at the Phoenix University, an online college, the mother and daughter decided to both attend ECC, where Dell would study education and Rodman would pursue a general studies degree.
Now, they both agree that East Central College was the perfect match for them, and noted that flexible course schedules and online classes were key to completing their degrees.
The mother-daughter pair stood together during commencement and collected their degrees one after another.
Before Dell enrolled at school she worked in day cares and taught as a substitute in the St. Clair School District. Beyond that, she said, she mostly focused on being a mom.
Being the mother of four and grandmother of 26 grandchildren didn’t leave a lot of free time for an education, so ECC’s flexible schedule and online classes were a big help for Dell. The same is true for Rodman, who has three children.
Rodman’s situation in her late teenage years was similar to her mother’s. She had her first child at 18 and didn’t think she would be able to finish her education. She said her mother’s drive to earn her degree was a major force behind her completing her own program.
“She’s an amazing role model to me,” she said.
The two often drove to classes together, shared books and helped each other with course work. For two years, the mother and daughter worked on obtaining their degrees.
For Dell, the idea that an “old dog” can be taught new tricks kept her going.
“It’s important to me because most people think once you’ve reached a certain age you can’t be taught new tricks — you can,” Dell said. “Now she (her daughter) also is realizing it’s never too late.”
Rodman said she thinks she and her mother are setting a great example for her children, who have watched as they have worked toward their degrees. She sbelieves others can do the same with the right mindset.
“My kids see me doing homework while they do homework. I like being able to show myself that I can do that, and they can see that I did it,” Rodman said. “Other people can do it too.”
The mother and daughter’s graduation wasn’t the only ceremony they’d be attending over the weekend. The family held a graduation party for the two college graduates and three others in the family, including Rodman’s youngest son.
Rodman said earning her degree was an important moment in her life, and she owes a lot of that to her mother.
“It’s really important for me. I’m the first of all my siblings to complete college,” Rodman said. “It feels like a big win.”
The mother and daughter both have plans to continue their education. Rodman said she may go back to ECC to study the medical profession, but also has thought about earning a bachelor’s degree.
Dell, however, said she wants to continue her education and earn her bachelor’s in education with an emphasis in special education and keep striving to “learn some new tricks.”