December graduate finally completes long commute
December 18, 2008
The “long haul” for a college education has a different meaning for a member of Bryan’s December graduating class – thousands of miles different. Chris Young, a psychology major from Campaign, Tenn., near McMinnville, has spent the past seven semesters driving 75 miles one way to class, almost every day, to earn his degree.
“He’s responsible,” said Dr. Steve Bradshaw, professor of psychology. “While some students on campus roll out of the dorm and get to class late, he usually is here before I arrive. He has been an excellent student, scoring the highest on the Educational Testing Service competency exam this year.”
In addition to the miles, it took Chris several more years than usual to earn the B.A. in Psychology degree. After graduating from high school, he went to work in a factory and took an occasional college class along the way. He also married and became the father of two daughters.
“I had a good job, with good pay and benefits, but the factory closed,” he explained. “Part of the severance package was that they would pay for tuition and books for people who wanted to go to school. This was an opportunity for me to do something I’d always wanted to do.”
Since he graduated from high school in 1988, he had worked as a youth minister in churches in his community and developed a concern for youth in crisis situations.
“I live only 25 minutes from Tennessee Tech, but I wanted to go to a Christian school,” he said. “I wanted Christian integration with my major, and I wanted a minor in Bible. I was interested in Bryan because of the Christian influence and the motto ‘Christ Above All.’”
Despite the fact that few “non-traditional” students like him enroll in the traditional program, “it has been a really good experience,” he said. “The adjustment wasn’t easy; I hadn’t been a great student in high school, but I loved this. I love to learn.”
In addition to the academic challenge, his family had to make some adjustments as well. “Being a dad, husband, and full-time student has been hard for my family,” he said. “It has been a struggle for our youngest daughter because Dad hasn’t been as attentive or available as he used to be.”
There were financial challenges as well. “Our intention was for me to work, but that didn’t last long. I couldn’t do a real job and this,” he said. “My wife works as a registered nurse in Murfreesboro, and I’ve worked summer jobs. We’ve been conservative with our money over the years, so we knew we could survive on what my wife earns.”
With graduation behind him, Chris is ready to get back into the workforce, but more education remains a goal. “I’m looking at a number of companies,” he said. “One of them will help with graduate school. That’s my goal.”
With his goal to counsel troubled teens, he said more education is needed, but the goal is within reach. “He certainly has a burden for that,” Dr. Bradshaw said. “I think he could do a lot of good modeling what it means to be a man, particularly for boys.”
And if his persistence over the past seven semesters is any indication, the next part of Chris’s educational journey won’t be quite as long as the one he has just completed.