Education can be daunting especially when faced with the struggles and responsibilities that often accompany the adult learner. Adult educators are often faced with helping students deal with life issues that are not common among traditional students, like marital counseling, sick children, the loss of jobs, as well as others. This can be frustrating as an educator and can lead to burn out, as these life issues often lead the student to lose focus. However, there are those times when the student determines to excel despite all of life’s obstacles, and this is one of those stories.
Matt is a young man determined to make something of himself. I first encountered Matt during my Introduction to Programming class. Matt worked hard and excelled, despite the fact that this class is a real challenge to most students. Matt remained focused and achieved his goals for this class, and he was willing to help other students as well. The next time I encountered Matt was during the Linux Systems Administration class about one year later. I noticed that it seemed like Matt had to work harder in this class than programming, but I did not think too much about it, as this class challenges most students, even those who excel at programming. However, I got a call one evening that made me realize that there was more to this story than I first thought.
On the other end of the phone was Matt. He explained to me that he would not be in class for a while. I told him that was OK and that I would work with him to get caught up. Then he explained the reason. It seems that he had been having headaches and vision issues lately, and that after examining him, his eye doctor sent him to the emergency room. Apparently Matt had a tumor on his brain. I was dumbstruck as Matt revealed his situation to me. I asked if I could visit him at the ER, and he said that would be nice. My wife and I rushed to Wesley Medical Center to visit with Matt and his family. Matt in true form was worried about getting me the assignments he owed me for his Linux class. I informed him that he did not need to worry about that for now, but instead he needed to focus on getting better. The next time I saw Matt he looked as if he had gone through a battle. We sat down with school officials to discuss how to best accommodate him during his recovery. We worked out a plan, and despite being in and out of the hospital Matt continued to get his work done, and meet his obligations.
Fast forward to today. Matt has overcome the hurdles placed before him, despite repeated hospital stays, and on March 10th of this year Matt will graduate. However, for Matt it was never simply about graduating, because Matt will graduate with honors, and as the valedictorian of his class. Plus Matt had an interview recently with a company in California (just one more goal I know he has set for himself). I am anxious to see what Matt will do with his life, because a person who sets goals and is unwilling to let any obstacle prevent them from achieving those goals, will go far in this life.