Fort Riley Soldier James Re has been deployed since January, but he traveled thousands of miles to share just a few seconds of joy with his wife, Jennifer, as she crossed the stage Thursday afternoon at the Fort Riley Education Consortium’s annual commencement ceremony at the Marriott in Junction City. She received her associate degree in liberal studies with an emphasis in pre-nursing.
“She’s been doing this while I’ve been deployed on two rotations, and she finished her associate degree in less than 15 months,” he said. “I am so proud of her. She takes care of the kids and the house and is doing this all on her own.”
Jennifer credits Barton Community College’s convenient classes and dedicated staff for making the journey possible, but her husband’s support played a big part in motivating her to enroll.
“James has been telling me for years that I need to go to school, but I would tell him I’m just not the college type, that it’s not in me,” she said. “All these years I guess he saw something in me that I never saw. He’s been very supportive and he flew all the way from Poland just to be here.”
She plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing as her next step, with the ultimate goal of working at a children’s hospital like St. Jude’s.
“An 8-year-old little boy came to my church who had a brain tumor, and the care he and his family received from St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital for the next year of his life was amazing and inspired me to move in that direction,” she said. “And then I had an opportunity and the door was left wide open for school, and I said ‘OK, let’s explore this.’”
James and Jennifer were a microcosm of the larger celebration Thursday afternoon. The atmosphere was buzzing with energy from the graduates and their families ready to hear their names and achievements announced from the podium.
Graduates from the consortium’s 13 colleges participated in the event, but Barton Community College at Fort Riley’s 103 students, 77 of whom chose to walk at the ceremony, outnumbered the other consortium member schools by nearly two to one.
Barton also held an Honors Ceremony for students in the Alpha Sigma Lambda Honor Fraternity on Wednesday prior to commencement, which recognizes non-traditional students who maintain a 3.5 GPA and have completed at least 24 credit hours. The fraternity celebrates the many challenges faced by non-traditional students, who have to juggle family, work and school to achieve their educational goals.
Barton also honored members of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, which recognizes students who carry a 3.5 GPA and are enrolled in at least 12 credit hours.
Visit FR.bartonccc.edu for more information about Barton’s many programs and services to the public and Soldiers at its Fort Riley and Grandview Plaza campuses.