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Grandma graduates from college

From Caribbean cruises to the sandy beaches of Oahu and everywhere in between, my laptop and I have traveled with a desire to fulfill a bucket list dream. I am now scheduled to graduate this month with an online bachelor’s degree in science — with a minor in English and a certificate in ESL — from the Brigham Young University Idaho campus.

As I step into my final days of finals, I look back at my pathway with an attitude of gratitude for the family and friends who helped me along the way. I would not be here without them.

My journey began in 2015 when I learned of a program called Pathway taught online at BYU-I. I attended my first meeting and left with a grin from ear to ear, and a dream that this was something I could do.

Even though I had little knowledge of computers and what online school actually entailed, I was determined to try. All of my children had graduated from college, and now it would be my turn.

I have managed a small business in Ashland for 40 years, was taking care of an elderly mother with dementia, and everything else in between. This was finally my answer to a low-cost college degree and the beginnings of my next step into the future of work and volunteer service.

The motto of the BYU universities is “Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve.” I had entered, I had signed up for a triumphant time of 10 months of classes, held weekly in person at the LDS church in Medford, to learn the basics of college classes and to see if I could pass them with a “B” or better.

Finishing that, I entered into the BYUI program online and was on my own. Weekly and sometimes daily there were tears of frustration of the computer skills I needed, but had not yet acquired. Friends and family came to my aid and spent hours helping me be successful each semester.

Each year of classes passed by, and I pushed ahead — all the while traveling to see grandkids, which took me on cruises to the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii and more. The internet was slow on some of those trips, but classes were completed each semester.

I will walk at the BYUI commencement and receive my degree in the July graduation ceremonies so that my children and grandchildren can be there. Proudly I will walk across the stage and know that I accomplished a dream and gained a new set of skills for whatever comes next in my life.

The BYU motto is now calling me to serve. I enter a new phase in life — to retire from work, but to go and use these skills to serve and volunteer someplace where my skills are needed.

My husband feels the same and will use his skills as well as we embark on a new journey of the great unknown, retirement and how to spend it. I want to retire to something else, not just retire.

Senior couples can go and serve as missionaries all over the world through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints missionary service for a period of a year, 18 months or two years. They can do volunteer work anywhere in the world based on their skills. Our plan now is to go through interviews, medical and dental forms and choose or be assigned to serve in a missionary/volunteer capacity.

I hope to do some ESL teaching or whatever is available. My journey has given me a new sense of accomplishment in my 60s that I never realized would happen. I look forward to whatever comes next and wonder where my learning and service will take me. I leave a legacy of love to clients old and new and thank them for their continued support through the years. You will be missed.

Lois Jorgensen lives in Ashland.

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