'Owens graduates told: 'The choices you will make' will determine success PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sentinel-Tribune Staff   
Wednesday, 08 May 2013 08:42
Seven hundred forty Owens Community College students recently were awarded degrees in various academic disciplines during the academic institution's 47th annual spring commencement ceremony Friday.
For 67-year-old Mary Visco of Holland, a landscape and turfgrass management major, spring commencement represented the beginning of a second career involving her passion - horticulture.
"Graduation represents a whole new life for me," stated Visco, who was previously a self-employed business owner for 35 years. "I always had the desire to want to learn about horticulture and Owens allowed my passion to become a reality. My desire to learn far outweighed any anxiety of returning to school in my 60s."
Visco, who already holds a bachelor's degree in finance from the University of Toledo, can now add an associate's degree to her educational attainment and a new career as a part-time horticulturist at the Toledo Botanical Garden.
Tiffin resident and business management technology major Julia Parkins, 17, views graduation as the first step toward her ultimate goal of a career in marketing.
"Hard work pays off," explained Parkins, who is obtaining her associate's degree prior to graduating from Tiffin Columbian High School in June.
After completing her education at Owens and Tiffin Columbian, Parkins will attend  Ohio State University in the fall and set her sights on a bachelor's degree in marketing.
Robert W. LaClair, president and CEO of Fifth Third Bank (Northwestern Ohio), served as the keynote speaker for the commencement and provided the graduates with some words of encouragement as they embark on many new life-changing adventures.
"You are all going to find that your success, your happiness and your place in life will all be determined not by where you grew up, how much money you or your family had or didn't have, your ACT score or your GPA, but from the choices you will make," LaClair stated. "You are leaving Owens today better prepared to make those life and career choices that when you first arrived. I'm sure of that."
Bradley Higgs, a criminal justice student, was selected as the Owens class representative and addressed the graduates during the ceremony.
Higgs' speech highlighted the challenges he and his fellow graduates have overcome to realize their dreams and goals.
"I know that each of you have had barriers and obstacles to overcome, but by God's grace you have succeeded, and our graduating from Owens is just one of the joys that we shall enjoy in a life full of successful accomplishments," stated Higgs.
Higgs grew up in Toledo and was kicked out of his house at the age of 10 along with his three younger siblings. They were homeless and made money washing cars and pumping gas. Eventually, the four children were picked up by the police and placed in foster homes.
By the time he was 16, he started to get into trouble and by 19 he had been arrested and was serving time in prison.
After serving his sentence, he became reacquainted with religion and changed his life in a Volunteers of America halfway house. Soon after, he enrolled at Owens.
Higgs never forgot his experience at the halfway house and went back to volunteer at Volunteers of America. Eventually, he was hired and promoted by the outreach organization. He is now the front desk security supervisor at the Chestnut Hill Apartments.
The 35-year-old has a 3.8 grade point graduated magna cum laude.
The Toledo resident plans on continuing his education and transferring to a four-year college or university this fall with the goal of obtaining a bachelor's degree in social work. His goal is to work with juvenile offenders.

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