This month the seven colleges of DCCCD will celebrate their students' accomplishments as commencement ceremonies mark the end of one phase in their lives and many new beginnings.
For accounting student Fawn Walker, graduation signifies the completion of a 30-year journey toward earning a college degree.
Mountain View College student Fawn Walker took a long, circuitous route to earning her college degree. She started college in 1983 with dreams of completing a degree in accounting. But life shifted her priorities: There was marriage, parenthood, a mortgage and horses to breed.
"I went to college and took a 30-year break," Fawn said. "With a young toddler at home, I felt burned out. I was doing a lot." So she quit Mountain View and broke from the tradition set by her parents — completing college. "Everybody in my family has a degree except me," said the Red Oak resident. "I got pregnant, got married and that was that."
Fawn took a job as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service and settled into her life.
"When I got this job, I thought I didn't have to go to school anymore. I had more money," she explained. "Then I kept getting promoted at the post office, and everybody had a degree. I started to regret not having mine."
In 2013, with a solid work record and her finances in shape, Fawn found breathing room and re-enrolled in school. Now, at age 50, Fawn Walker is on track to receive her associate degree in accounting this May from Mountain View — exactly where she started her college career. She is not the typical DCCCD student, whose average age is 27. But she has found acceptance among peers whose ages often are less than half of hers. They marvel at her story.
Getting back in school was a challenge Fawn found both daunting and encouraging. She relished her new studies but found a lot had changed in college since the 1980s. Everyone had a computer, and she had to take classes, either online or in the classroom, around her work schedule. Re-taking some courses was particularly difficult.
"I had to take remedial algebra. I forgot that entirely," said Fawn, who is a staffing analyst in the post office. But with hard work and determination, she was invited to become a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the internationally recognized honor society at two-year colleges for students who master their courses with top grades. It is PTK's tassel that will hang from her mortarboard when she walks across the stage.
"I am so excited about this and yes, I am going. I want my family to see this," she said.
Dr. Robert Garza, president of Mountain View College, praised Fawn.
"We would like to congratulate Fawn on her tremendous accomplishment," Garza said. "Although she may have taken some time to complete her degree, Fawn never gave up. Her commitment and determination to finish what she started is something that we can all learn from."
And Fawn Walker is not finished with her education. She hopes to transfer to the University of North Texas or Dallas Baptist University. Until then, she is busy with work, family and breeding Arabian horses. "I will go on to slowly earn my bachelor's (degree)," she said.
At commencement, Fawn plans to celebrate her success and uphold the dignity of a college graduate. Instead of tossing her cap, she will grip it with both hands. The graduating senior said, "I am so excited. I've waited a long time for this."
Mountain View's 7 p.m. graduation ceremony will be held on Wednesday, May 11, at the Inspiring Body of Christ Church, located at 7701 S. Westmoreland Road in Dallas.
DCCCD's other six colleges are staging commencements as well. Ceremonies are listed below, in date order:
Eastfield College – Saturday, May 7, at the Curtis Culwell Center, 4999 Naaman Forest Blvd. in Garland at 4:30 p.m.
Note:This ceremony includes 68 students from Lakeview Centennial High School in the Garland Independent School District and the first graduating class from W.W. Samuell Early College High School in the Dallas Independent School District. Twenty-seven Samuell ECHS graduates will receive their associate degree from Eastfield College before they receive their high school diplomas.
Brookhaven College -- Thursday, May 12, at Alfred J. Loos Field House in Addison, 3815 Spring Valley Rd. at 7 p.m.
Cedar Valley College – Thursday, May 12, at the Inspiring Body of Christ Church, 7701 S. Westmoreland Ave. in Dallas at 7 p.m.
North Lake College – Thursday, May 12, at the Irving Convention Center, 500 West Las Colinas Blvd. in Irving at 7 p.m.
Richland College – Thursday, May 12, at the Curtis Culwell Center, 4999 Naaman Forest Blvd. in Garland at 7:30 p.m.
El Centro College — Sunday, May 15, at Fair Park Coliseum, 1438 Coliseum Dr. in Dallas at 3 p.m.