A Winding road
It took Kelli Ward a while to settle into a rhythm at Peninsula College. In 2005, she attended the Running Start program but didn’t do very well. As a care-free teenager, she couldn’t handle the freedom and additional responsibility of college. She earned poor grades and ultimately was put on academic suspension. She was told she wouldn’t graduate from high school. “This consequence did not sit well with me, so I took nine classes at the high school during my last semester in order to graduate, and I succeeded,” says Kelli.
In spring of 2007, she returned to Peninsula College and was placed on probation because of her poor grades from two years before. Working two jobs at the time, to pay her own way, and taking on a full academic schedule proved too much for her, so she withdrew.
Kelli returned for yet a third try at college in the fall of 2008, this time with the added responsibility of raising her daughter. Still on academic probation and now a new mother, she had to withdraw from one of her classes. She knew it was time to make some tough decisions, so she decided to quit her job to devote her full attention to her daughter and studies. This wise decision proved to be a positive turning point in her life.
By the fall of 2009, Kelli found the Administrative Office Systems (AOS) program, and it seemed like a good fit for her. She enrolled in an accounting class but quickly learned that accounting was not a match for her abilities. Instead of dropping accounting, she replaced it with a criminal justice class.
This is where it all turns around, right?
No. Because Kelli transferred into the program three weeks after the quarter began, she was behind in her studies, but when she decided to drop the class, it was too late, and ultimately she received a zero. The result was another academic suspension. After appealing for an early reinstatement of financial aid, she embarked on a new path of the Administrative Assistant Specialization in the AOS program. Kelli’s appeal was approved but her cumulative GPA was not high enough to qualify for financial aid.
What Kelli was doing is precisely the focus of John C. Maxwell’s celebrated book, Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success. Kelli was making her way through the obstacles that came with life experiences, but rather than becoming discouraged, she became inspired, moved forward in her pursuits, and ultimately achieved her goals.
People make the difference
Kelli experienced many delays in obtaining her degree, but credits PC advisors Sherry Sparrowk and Kate Reavey with helping her conquer those obstacles: “Not only did they provide guidance, but they stood behind me as my advocates when I needed support to continue pursuing my degree.”
Kelli admits taking the steps to overcome these obstacles to success taught her to be persistent and determined. “If I didn’t push back, I would not be where I am at today. PC was very willing to hear me out and work with me, and my advisors believed in me to the point of backing me up when I needed them. The staff at PC proved to me that they are invested in the success of their students, which is treatment that would be hard to get at a larger college,” stated Kelli.
Back on track
Kelli worked hard to save the money to pay for a quarter at PC on her own and raised her GPA so she could meet the requirements for financial aid. She was back on track. Kelli qualified for the Presidents List and earned a cumulative GPA of 3.71 that quarter. She had clearly found her path.
When Kelli met with her program advisor, Sherry Sparrowk, to discuss the upcoming academic year, Sparrowk never lost faith in Kelli: “I met with Kelli many times as she worked her way through the reinstatement process. She never wavered from her goal to excel and to graduate.”
A month before graduation, Kelli was provided an opportunity that would change her life. She was recruited by Platypus Marine, Inc., and hired as a Sales Associate to re-create their website and assist in the development of marketing materials. She was quickly promoted to Assistant to the CEO before advancing to her current role of Special Projects Coordinator. As the Special Projects Coordinator, her main focus is government relations. “I’ve now worked for Platypus for almost three years, and truly believe if I hadn’t been attending PC, my employer wouldn’t have found me,” says Kelli. “I was hired at Platypus about a month before I graduated, so this is the only job I’ve had that relies on the degree I earned.”
Kelli realizes the strong ties between college and businesses in the community: “The CEO of Platypus Marine, along with many other local business owners I’m sure, regularly looks to the college for potential employees. Through my program advisor, my hard work and experience led her to recommend me for the position which I’ve already been promoted from twice in less than three years,” notes Kelli. Couple this with the determination to overcome obstacles and anything is possible.
The finish line
Kelli graduated in June 2012 with an Associate of Arts in Applied Science degree in Administrative Office Systems with two specializations: Medical and Administrative Assistant. “Graduation was a proud day for me knowing I had really earned it and really had to work for it!” says Kelli.