• Chanda Veno, The Anderson News

Two paths, one outcome

IT’S BEEN 40 years since Marcella Reynolds, at front, graduated from Western High School, but she marked it in a special way – by graduating from Kentucky Community and Technical College in the same class as her granddaughter, Tulsa Owens-Buffin, of Woodford County. On May 8, Reynolds and Buffin walked with their graduating class at the Frankfort Convention Center. (Photo by Chanda Veno, Anderson News)

Marcella Reynolds, 58, Western High School Class of 1976: After high school graduation, Reynolds married and had two children. “I raised my children and went to work in a factory.” That factory – Greenheck Fan Corporation in Frankfort – is where she has worked for the past 20 years. “One day, I was coming home from work and I was really upset,” Reynolds explained. “I decided that day that I was going to go back to school.” She went to the board of education to get her high school transcript for the college admission application and they were getting ready to close. It took a while, but she got it. “Had they not given me my transcript that day, I wouldn’t have done it,” Reynolds stated. This was in the spring of 2010. When she told her co-workers that she was enrolled in the Information Technology program at KCTC, they were skeptical. “They said, ‘You’ll never be able to do it,’” she added. “They gave me a challenge and I like a challenge.” In addition to having her education fully funded through scholarships and grants, Reynolds maintained a 3.8 grade point average. Even though she doesn’t technically have her degree in her possession yet, it is already been beneficial. She was recently promoted to safety team lead at Greenheck – complete with a desk in the front office. “I’m gonna stay where I’m at. I may pick up some OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) training,” the 58-year-old graduate said. “My degree is already paying off.” Growing up, Reynolds’s family consisted of eight girls and three boys – none of whom went to college. “My mom and dad aren’t here no more, but if they were and saw one of their children walk across that stage, they’d be thrilled,” Reynolds added. “I’m glad I’m that one child.” Tulsa Owens-Buffin, 26, Woodford County High School Class of 2008: Owens-Buffin took a different path after high school graduation. She took on a full-time job as paint department manager at Ace Hardware in Versailles for a few years. “I wasn’t ready for college just yet,” she said. After giving birth to daughter Peyton five years ago, she decided the time to head back to school had come. “I went back to school for my children. I want to show them the way,” she explained. Last spring, was a particularly difficult semester for Owens-Buffin, as she was pregnant with her second daughter, Savannah. “It was so hard going to school pregnant,” she said. “When I was seven months pregnant, I wanted to quit.” But she didn’t quit. Heather Mills, a good friend, encouraged her to stick it out. “I finished school in May, had the baby in June, and started school again in August.” She credits being able to do her prerequisite coursework online at night as a lifesaver. Both Owens-Buffin and Reynolds, said the biggest challenge about going back to school was balancing work, home, and school. “It was very hard at first because I didn’t know how she’d do it with being a mom,” Lathrem said. “I was overwhelmed to see her determination and all the sleepless nights. It was a very emotional ride, but definitely worth it.” In addition to juggling the demands of being an employee, mother and student, Owens-Buffin also earned the outstanding graduate honor in her Surgical Technology program, an acclamation awarded to the student with the highest grade point average in each program. She maintained a perfect 4.0 throughout her college career. Unlike Reynolds, the 26-year-old Owens-Buffin has racked up about $16,000 in college loans. “I’m a little intimidated by my loans,” she said. “I gotta start paying them off.” The pressure to repay them loosened a little recently when she accepted a position as surgical technologist at Good Samaritan Hospital. “I start June 27,” she beamed. Both graduates said if it wasn’t for their husbands and families, they may not have made it this far. “They are so excited to see me graduate,” Owens-Buffin said. “It’s kinda scary,” Reynolds explained before the graduation ceremony. “Last time I graduated was with 30 people. Now, there’ll be hundreds.” Directly following graduation, the family went out to celebrate. Owens-Buffin, her husband, Daniel, and their two daughters will be leaving for a much-needed beach vacation soon after. “I’m very proud of them – all their hard work and determination,” Lathrem commented. “I want them to keep pursuing their dreams.” Both are ready to move on with their lives and put their degrees to good use. “On my first day (of college), I pulled in and saw the sign ‘Education begins here’ and thought, ‘Wow, I’m going to college,’” Reynolds said. “But I’m glad to be driving out now. It’s been a long journey.” Note: This article originally appeared in The Anderson News and is used with permission.

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