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It?s Never Too Late To Learn

May 17, 2007

By Jeffrey Zupanic
The Review

Maria Antonieta Collins' message to Mount Union College's Class of 2007 could not be more fitting to a trio of graduates. ''Si se puede!' the Spanish-television personality said. That translates to 'you can do it.'

Pictured (L-R): Jo VanFossen, Nancy Kasparek and Sara Crawford

Photo Courtesy of Kevin Graff/The Review

Among the 414 graduates were Jo VanFossen, Nancy Kasparek and Sara Crawford, who were receiving their degrees as part of the college's adult studies program. Each took a different journey, but all three culminated with the same feelings on May 6.

'The most rewarding part was going through the commencement exercises,' VanFossen said. 'That told us that we had accomplished our goal.'

VanFossen and Kasparek both work for Mount Union College. Crawford is retired after working more than 30 years with Alliance Machine, but she is not lost in the Mount Union connection.

'I started going to school here in the late 1950s and I finished three years then stopped,' Crawford said. 'I didn't know what I wanted to do so I just quit. So when I retired I thought 'why not go back and finish?''

Five decades later, she did just that albeit under much different circumstances.

'When I was going to school here there were only 850 students on campus,' she said of the college's ever-changing landscape.

VanFossen immediately pointed out that Mount Union has around 2,300 students.

'It's a little bit different and I was scared at first,' Crawford said.

But that's what friends are for. The trio, who majored in psychology and minored in sociology, carried their professional relationship and friendship into the classroom together as they journeyed down the road of the scientific study of mental processes and behavior.

'It was definitely much easier going through this with each other,' Kasparek said. 'There are some nerves before you take that first class and do that first paper, so it was really nice to have someone there going through it with you.'

Most of the trio's classes were taken during the evening, but there were some rare occasions where they found themselves sitting in a classroom during daylight hours with the regular student body.

That interaction went very well, according to VanFossen.

'I thought the students were great to get along with,' she said. 'I think you have a little concern about how they will perceive you being a little older.'

Kasparek added that she felt some of the students actually responded better because they looked at them as 'parental figures' instead of another student.

'The guys were very gentlemanly, they were always holding open the doors for us and being polite the entire time,' said Crawford. 'It was just a very pleasant experience.'

While the majority of college students are faced with the pressures of schoolwork and occasionally a part-time job, there is added stress with being an adult student.

'You have to balance your job, family and school work,' said Kasparek, who works for the Office of Registration. 'That can be a lot on one person's plate.'

Through it all, Kasparek and VanFossen received tremendous support from their families, which aided in the transition from mother/wife/career woman to student. VanFossen, who started her pursuit of a degree by taking one class every semester and during the summer since 1993, said her son was the voice of inspiration for her throughout the process.

'There were some summers or semesters that I thought about taking a break, but he kept telling me that I had to keep going,' VanFossen said. 'He kept saying 'you can do it, mom. You don't need to take a break.''

Kasparek, started taking classes at Mount in 1998 after receiving some transfer credits from Clarion University (Pa.), also received words from her family, but in a much different manner. During her journey, she found herself taking a class with her daughter, Kelly.

'That was an experience,' she said with a laugh. 'We had a computer class together and she was so much faster than I was with everything. But I knew from watching her that I wasn't going to give up.'

So now that the college experience has come and gone, what is next?

'I think our husbands and families are going to be glad to have their wives and moms back,' said Kasparek with a smile.

And they will welcome them back with a college degree.

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