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Woman realizes dream of graduating with her daughter

May 9, 2017

Teresa Summers in cap and gown at commencement ceremony

By Alyssa Harvey BG Daily News

Teresa Summers once thought the chance of finishing her college degree was behind her, but it continued to be a dream she held in her heart.

“I had a different job that required me to travel two hours a day in St. Louis. I didn’t have time to work on it because I had two girls at the time who were small,” she said. “I always wanted to finish it, but I waited.”

When she came to Franklin, she set a milestone.

“I was the first female police officer in the Franklin Police Department,” she said.

The 67-year-old Franklin woman had been out of school for 40 years before enrolling in Southern Kentucky Community and Technical College a few years ago. She received an associate degree in arts and humanities Friday at commencement ceremonies at the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center.

“I had a neighbor that worked at SKYCTC. I wanted to finish what I started in my 20s,” she said. “This is on my bucket list. It’s different if you don’t do it for a long time.”

Summers wanted to be a role model for her children and grandchildren. It wasn’t easy, though.

“I almost quit many times. They were helpful all the way through. Even the online professors were helpful,” she said. “My adviser and family kept me going. If I can do it, anybody can do it.”

Having a degree is “more and more important all the time,” Summers said.

“It’s hard to get a job as technology changes all the time,” she said. “I think it’s great the college works with local businesses, factories and industries. They’re able to match what they need. The employee is more job ready.”

Not only is she finally finishing what she started, she shared her experience with her daughter, Kriste Bryson, who received an associate degree in medical information technology. She and her mother didn’t start school at the same time. Bryson would take two online classes a semester until this semester, when she decided to take five on top of working full time, owning a commercial cleaning business, finishing an internship and caring for her family.

“It just worked out I graduated now,” she said.

Summers actually finished last semester but is just now participating in commencement.

“They don’t have graduation then,” she said.

Bryson and Summers took classes on the Bowling Green and Franklin campuses and online. The flexibility made it easier for both of them.

“I wouldn’t be able to do it (any other way),” Bryson said.

Bryson pursued an education because she was tired of working low-wage jobs at odd hours.

“I’d been working retail and fast food at crazy hours,” she said. “I figure with a degree I could get a better job.”

Bryson managed to balance everything well, Summers said.

“Anything her family needs she’s there for them,” she said. “She’s my rock.”

They’re both happy with their accomplishments.

“I’m done,” Bryson said.

“We’re done,” Summers emphasized.

Also graduating was 13-year-old William Poteet, of Plano, who received his associate in arts, associate in science and soon a high school diploma.

“The bulk of his high school work he did through SKY and WKU,” said his father, Bruce Poteet, English teacher and coordinating director of Developmental English Composition. Poteet presented his son with his degree as is the tradition at SKYCTC with faculty who have a son or daughter who is graduating.

William, who was found to be profoundly gifted at age 5, remembers when he wanted to leave what he called “normal school.”

“I thought normal school wasn’t as challenging,” he said. “I was making all A’s and I was being bullied a bit.”

William’s parents put him in private school before providing a homeschool program for him and doing dual-credit courses with Western Kentucky University and going to school at SKYCTC. Despite his gift, he is still your average 13-year-old, Poteet said.

“He’d rather play video games and play with his friends,” he said. “He’s still an adolescent.”

William used to struggle because he thought he had nothing to offer but his intelligence, but not so much anymore, Poteet said.

“He wasn’t just an IQ score,” he said. “We don’t even talk about it anymore.”

William plans to go to WKU as part of the class of 2021. He wants to get an accounting degree with a focus on finance and math.

“I want to be a financial adviser,” he said.

William feels “happy” about graduating.

“It’s a bit worrying because I’m graduating this early, but I’m excited,” he said