We Now Pronounce You “Graduated”: A Valentine's Day Story of Love and Learning

With more than 57,000 WGU graduates across the country, we have the privilege of hearing many inspiring stories of life and career success, perseverance, struggles and triumphs—each unique and special. We meet sisters, colleagues, friends, or parents and their offspring who have completed their degrees either simultaneously or consecutively, the success of one inspiring the other to pursue their dreams and return to school. This past weekend at our Winter 2016 commencement in Orlando, Florida, we were privileged to hear the story of a couple who share the title of WGU alum.

The story of a husband-and-wife team of Night Owls: What better way to celebrate Valentine's Day?

Madonna Ford loves math and graduated from high school with plans to pursue a career as a high school math teacher. She spoke with different teachers, family, and friends about her plans but was encouraged to go into engineering where she could still do math every day but earn a higher income. Madonna listened to the advice and completed her associate’s degree in survey and technology at a brick-and-mortar school in North Carolina.

For 17 years she worked as a registered land surveyor. “I rode the money bubble, but once it burst I wanted a career that would last until I retired,” Madonna said. In her 40s, she made the decision to leave her job as the housing market dropped and money was deteriorating. She decided to go back to school and pursue the teaching career she always wanted.

Still working full time, Madonna needed a flexible program that would allow her to balance both work and school. WGU was the first school that popped up in her search bar that would provide her the quality education and flexibility she needed to complete her degree, so she enrolled in the B.A. Mathematics (5-12) program right away.

“Once I was in my student teaching I saw how applicable my WGU course material was to my lessons,” she said. “I wasn’t just completing repetitive math citations. WGU used real-world examples that I could apply to the classroom and use to teach my students. I felt well prepared to teach on my own.”

During her second year, Madonna’s husband Brett watched as she proved her competencies and moved quickly through the material. Brett had considered returning to school after dropping out in his early 20s, but it just hadn’t happened yet.

As he watched his wife going after her dream, Brett took a long look in the mirror and enrolled with WGU to complete his B.S. Information Technology degree.

“Brett was always playing on and fixing computers, so I told him to enroll at WGU,” Madonna said. “We both had jobs so we would complete our school work together at 2 a.m. WGU’s model made it possible for us to fit school into our busy work schedules and not hurt our family time.”

“The number 21 has special meaning to me,” Brett said in his commencement address last weekend. “21 is the number of competency units per term I averaged in my 2½ years at WGU. I don’t recommend that number to many people, but I was on a mission to graduate around the same time as my wife.”

The two used their strengths to help the other through their tough courses. Madonna tutored and helped Brett through his math courses, and he proofread all of her papers.

Brett was working for AT&T before enrolling at WGU and recently received a promotion after earning his bachelor’s degree. He maintains wireless traffic for cell phones across the country. Madonna also accomplished her goal of becoming a math teacher and began teaching grades nine through 11 at a high school in Charlotte, N.C., this past fall.

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