At the Park family dinner table, college wasn’t a topic of conversation. No one encouraged or expected anyone to continue education after high school. But this spring, Colette Park, 52, and her daughter Sarah, 21, are graduating together from Lorain County Community College’s University Partnership program. They are generations apart, but both found career pathways and a learning environment that worked for them at LCCC.
For Colette, she simply wanted a better job.
“A lot of times if you’re under-educated, the full-time job opportunities aren’t there,” she said. “This was a way to better myself for me and my family.”
After earning her associate degree from LCCC, Colette began working on her Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Cleveland State University through LCCC’s University Partnership program. Sarah enrolled in The University of Akron’s Bachelor of Applied Science in Automated Manufacturing Engineering Technology degree program, also through LCCC’s University Partnership. She too had earned her degree from LCCC, an Applied Science degree in Automated Manufacturing Technology – Maintenance/Repair, and when it came to earning her bachelor’s degree, Sarah’s goal was to graduate with as little debt as possible.
“I wanted to continue on a path that wasn’t going to drive me deep into debt and that I could afford without taking out loans or minimal loans, if possible,” Sarah said. “So that’s why I chose the University Partnership.”
“I applaud Sarah,” Colette said. “For her to know what she what she wants to do and be successful at it is pretty amazing.”
Sarah’s career success has come early in her education. Since 2019 she’s worked as an electrical technician at AgriNomix, a leading supplier to the North American horticulture industry. Sarah has been working there part time while enrolled at LCCC as part of the college’s earn and learn program. Once she graduates, she’ll switch to full time.
For Colette, that transition from school to career came earlier than she expected. In January Colette landed that better job she had been looking for and is now a workforce development specialist for OhioMeansJobs Lorain County, a partnership of local organizations that deliver education, training and employment services to help people find sustainable jobs. It seems fitting for Colette to be helping others navigate the uncertainties of unemployment and returning to school, just like she once had to do.
“I think it makes me better at my job because I can empathize,” Colette said. “I’ve had a lot of work experience and non-work experience. I think that it helps me be a better employee.”
Overcoming life situations while earning her degree has also made Sarah appreciate even more all her mom has accomplished.
“My mom’s definitely an inspiration to me,” Sarah said. “She works really hard, and she has had multiple jobs while she’s finishing school.”
Colette said it’s all been worth the effort, especially as she and Sarah make plans to celebrate their achievements this spring at LCCC’s commencement ceremony.
“Commencement for me will not only be an ending of this, but I think it’ll be a beginning,” Colette said. “I’m always into something, so I can’t say that I’m going to stop going to school. It’s time for a break for now, but I’m proud of both of us.”