Friday, January 15, 2010

A hard road, but it leads forward

      Lisa Jurevick is trying to remember her childhood. “I was living in Puerto Rico,” she says, “in an orphanage.”
      “So, you’re an orphan?” a listener asks.
      “Yeah. I guess I am.” She laughs. “I never thought of it that way.”
      From anyone else, that might be surprising. But Lisa doesn’t live in the past, nor indulge in self-pity.
      She doesn’t dwell on the 2003 car crash that impairs her memory and ability to focus. She isn’t consumed by the 2004 car crash that killed her 21-year-old daughter, Kylee, an honor student at Oregon State University, and injured her two sons. She’s learned to live with the cobalt allergy she developed while working on a turbine project in Elma, Washington, even though exposure to the wrong metals, dyes or household products leaves her with skin-peeling breakouts that last four to six weeks. She’s accepted the fact that, in 2006, the allergy forced her to close her company, Top Gun Construction, which she’d opened six months earlier.
      “I have been very blessed in my life,” she says. “I have been able to overcome tremendous personal difficulties.”
More...      Lisa, 45, earned her bachelor’s degree in social sciences through Distance Degree Programs and graduated in December 2009. Her goal now is to help others.
      “I’m interested in getting a master’s in counseling psychology,” she says. "I want to reach out and help young mothers, like I was, especially teenagers. A lot of youths lack direction because their parents aren’t home.”
      The Lacey, Washington, resident knows that situation first-hand.
      “I was working two full-time jobs for many years, and didn’t get to spend time with my kids, so I’d like to counsel young mothers so they understand how important it is.”
      Lisa doesn’t know who her own mother is. Her father was in the Air Force, and had an affair. “He doesn’t know I exist,” she says. When Lisa was about 5 – “I know just little bits and pieces,” she says of her childhood – she and her half-sister came from Puerto Rico on a boat. They got split up, and Lisa ended up in a Van Nuys, California, foster home.
      “I’ve been on my own since I was 14, when I ran away from the foster home,” she says. “In Van Nuys, I baby-sat, and when I was 16, they emancipated me because they couldn’t find me.”
      Lisa chose DDP because of its accreditation and flexibility. “DDP gave me the opportunity to take the time I need to be successful,” she says. “I felt like my instructors were really engaged, and the curriculum is set up so you really remember everything, instead of just memorizing from a textbook.”
      Her fortitude impresses her academic advisor, Jaqueline Almdale. “Lisa is an amazing student,” Jaqueline says. “She has faced a lot of setbacks in the past, but soldiered on.”
      Lisa would rather focus on the present.
      “I feel really blessed because I’ve turned out to be a good person despite the challenges,” she says. “I’m grateful for that. I’m happy.”

By Richard H. Miller/Center for Distance and Professional Education

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