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When Jozelda Porter began her WGU journey to earn her master’s, she didn’t foresee that she would soon be learning as much about herself as she would about the field of Educational Leadership.
A middle school teacher in Jackson, Tennessee, Jozelda yearned to further her career with a master’s degree andafter a great deal of researchselected WGU in 2009 for the quality of its program, affordability and flexibility.
“Many of my friends have gone to online universities and some of the horror stories had me a little spooked,” Jozelda explained. “However, to my delight, WGU was everything these others were not.”
In addition to its challenging coursework and unique, competency-based program, WGU immediately impressed Jozelda for providing such an incredibly motivating support system. Her mentor, Alberto Flores, particularly made an impression. “He doesn’t know it, but he’s an honorary member of my family,” said Jozelda. “He was very encouraging to me. I really believe his compassion and support brought me to where I am today.”
Sadly, Jozelda found herself more in need of compassion than ever when her mother was diagnosed with cancer.
“I struggled with a hectic work schedule, a sick parent and my course work,” Jozelda recalled. “The plus in all of this was that I could access my schoolwork any time of the day or night. The weekly calls from my mentor kept me focused and on track. I felt like I had my own personal team to motivate me to succeed and keep me pumped up enough to go on when I felt I could go no further.”
In December 2009, Jozelda’s mother passed away. “I was very fortunate in that I spent my mother’s last night with her,” said Jozelda. “I can remember in the hospital room her asking me what I was working on, and I expressed my concern that I might not be able to finish my program. She looked at me very sternlyeven though she was very weakand she said to me, ‘You will finish on time because I didn’t raise quitters!’ This was one of the darkest periods of my life, but my WGU family stuck beside me and encouraged me to run the race. I felt like I was the only student WGU had and they were all pulling for me.”
Regrettably, Jozelda’s trevails were not yet over, as early 2010 brought her more devastating challenges. She found out about a life-threatening condition that might jeopardize the health of both her pregnant daughter and baby; and a cancer diagnosis for her 25-year-old son.
With grief and anxiety taking such a personal toll, Jozelda now felt there was no way she would ever graduate from WGU. Once again, however, her faith, family and her support network at WGU pulled her through. And in the process, she learned something important about herself: “I learned I’m not a quitter,” Jozelda said. “I discovered that I can push myself farther than I thought I could go.”
Despite all these difficulties in her personal life, Jozelda was able to finish her master’s degree at WGU. During her speech at the 2011 Winter Commencement Ceremony, she said, “Had it not been for the kindness and compassion of the WGU faculty and staff, this day would not be happening for me. WGU taught me how to be the best educational leader that I can be.”
With her degree from WGU, Jozelda plans to become a school principal and eventually, a superintendent.
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