Hear Mackenzie sing the fight song.In Richland, Washington, one 5-year-old isn’t content with spinning her wheels or dispensing syrupy sentiment. She sings of pride, conquest and rolling over those standing in the way. The song is always in her heart and on her lips:
“Fight, fight, fight for Washington State! Win the victory.
“Win the day for Crimson and Gray! More...
“Best in the West, we know you'll all do your best, so
“On, on, on, on! Fight to the end! Honor and Glory you must win!
“So fight, fight, fight for Washington State and victory!”
Mackenzie sings the “Cougar Fight Song” at home. She sings it in the car. Sometimes, during game days, she dons her little Cougar cheerleader outfit, gets up on a table, and sings at the Towne Crier, a Coug-centric sports bar co-owned by her stepfather, Joe Jisa, who graduated from Washington State University in 1997 with a bachelor’s in education.
Her mother, Marta Gray-Jisa, graduated from WSU last summer, earning her social sciences degree online through Distance Degree Programs.
“It was pretty sweet when Marta graduated as a Coug,” said Joe, who is also the principal at Christ the King School, a private kindergarten through eighth-grade school in Richland. “I am very proud of her. She worked extremely hard on her education while she was raising a child and working full time.”
Marta and Joe got married on August 8, 2008, two weeks after Marta’s graduation. They played the “Cougar Fight Song” at the wedding. “Mackenzie walked me down the aisle and stole the show,” Marta said.
Just a few years ago, Marta was struggling to rebuild her life after a divorce. “I became a single mother,” Marta said. “I had a barely 3-year-old, worked full time, sold a house, moved. DDP made it easy for me to burn the midnight oil and attend classes in the middle of the night.”
Other online universities offer convenience, but Marta wanted “a great education, not just a degree,” she said. “I decided on WSU because I wanted to be part of something great, something secure, a college with years of proven dedication to great education.”
Marta is spreading the word about WSU's distance program.
“I cannot count how many people I have spoken with about WSU-DDP,” she said. “I let people know there is always support available, and that it can be done, no matter how busy life is – I also tell them that I went to school every day in pajamas!”
Marta’s next step is to get her master’s in social work so she can “help children and families in need.”
What about Mackenzie’s next step? Once she’s conquered elementary school, junior high, and high school?
Mackenzie says her career plan is to become a princess or fairy or mermaid or scuba diver. Or some combination of the above. Her mother is more specific:
“Mackenzie will be a Cougar. There is no question about it!”
Joe was just as certain. “I don't think she has a choice on the school she will be going to,” he said. “She already says, ‘Huskies ... Yuk!’
“When she’s playing in her toy room and I hear her yell out a ‘Go Cougs’ or bust out the fight song, my heart just swells with pride.”
Story by Richard H. Miller/Center for Distance and Professional Education