Becky Degraffenried is thrilled to be graduating from Truman College with her Associate of Arts degree at the age of 47, because just a few years ago, she was in a completely different place.
Becky is proudly sober three years now, but for the ten years before that, she says simply that her “life was bad.” She had been estranged from her family, had times of homelessness, and even spent time in jail. Even after she got sober, she felt as though she was merely existing and not living her life. One day, Becky decided she was ready for a change.
“I had seen Truman College before when I was on the train, so I decided to stop in and check it out,” she said. Two months later, in the summer of 2018, she was enrolled in her first two classes.
Initially scared about returning to school because she had been out for long and worried that she would fail, she did more than just get through those first two classes – she got As. Then, a classmate told her about TRiO, a program on campus that provides a supportive environment to first-generation, low-income students as they worked toward their associate degree and transfer to a four-year university.
With a newfound confidence and extra support, Becky continued on with her studies. It wasn’t easy, but she persevered and did so well that she earned academic scholarships from City Colleges, as well as funding from TRiO. She also became a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, made the Deans List, and was invited to join the National Honor Society.
“There were some points where I thought ‘I want to be a social worker, why do I have to take Biology?’ But now I realize that all these classes taught me how to ask questions and to finish what I start, and helped me to be a well-rounded student,” she said.
This May, she is graduating with her associate degree and transferring to Northeastern Illinois University to study social work. She is disappointed that she can’t walk across the stage to get her diploma, especially since her mom, son, daughter-in-law, and grandson had already bought their tickets to fly in from Utah. But if Becky knows anything, it’s how to roll with whatever life throws at you.
“One thing I learned from my classmates at Truman is that my problems just aren’t that big compared to what others are going through. Plus, I can walk across that stage in two years when I get my bachelor’s degree,” she explained.
Once she earns her bachelor’s degree, Becky plans on becoming a social worker to help others who are going through tough times. Specifically, she wants to work in restorative justice in the court system. She says, “I’m grateful for everyone who helped me, and want to advocate for those who can’t do it for themselves.”