Archived Story

SMC graduate inspires others

Published 8:29am Thursday, April 29, 2010

For Southwestern Michigan College (SMC) student Pauline Johnson, Saturday’s commencement ceremony is the beginning – not the end – of her educational journey.

The 38-year-old Niles resident, who will graduate with honors, joins 327 other SMC students who will be awarded degrees and certificates during the college’s 43rd commencement.

“Earning a college degree has always been a longtime goal for me,” Johnson wrote in an essay for the EXCEL scholarship program at the college. “I can remember when I was a little girl I used to play ‘house’ and pretend that I was this big business executive. I knew in order to fulfill that dream that I would need to go to college.”

Johnson, who is the youngest of 14 siblings, will be the first in her immediate family to graduate from college.

Her mother passed away when she was 2 years old, leaving her oldest brother to raise the children.

“By furthering my education, I’ve been able to show my family members and co-workers that it’s never too late to go back to college,” Johnson said. “I have a nephew who wasn’t considering college because he has a learning disability, so I told him that everyone can go to college, no matter what the obstacles are. He’s almost done with his freshman year and although it’s been a challenge, he’s so thankful that he made the choice to go to college.”

Johnson’s determination to get a college degree has also inspired her 16-year-old son. Her son wrote a paper for class on his hero.

He said it was his mother for her tenacity to go to college, work and continue to raise a family.

“I was so shocked and touched by what he wrote,” Johnson said. “He talked about all my responsibilities and how proud he was of me. We talk about college and I don’t tell him what to do, but I try and help him make the best decision for him.”

Johnson will graduate with an associate degree in arts with an emphasis in business. She will enter the business administration program this fall through Ferris State University here on the SMC campus.

Her goal is to walk during the May 2013 graduation ceremony at SMC after she has earned her bachelor’s degree.

“Education provides us with the opportunity to learn and expand our knowledge in a way that we might not obtain through a job. It enhances our vocabulary, communication and leadership skills to compete in today’s job market,” Johnson wrote in her essay.

“After earning a bachelor’s degree, I plan to seek employment in a challenging and fulfilling job, possibly in the business department at a not-for-profit organization or to just build upon my experiences in the financial/accounting industry.

“Had I not decided to further my education, I wouldn’t have compelled others to go to college and I wouldn’t be able to have more options concerning my career,” she continued. “Most of all, I’m thankful that I’ve been able to inspire my nephew and son to pursue a college degree because I will have other relatives coming up after them, then they can inspire the one’s coming up after them and this can go on for generations to come.”

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