Persistence pays off for Penn State grad and single mother of five

University Park, Pa. — Micelle Emery of Fairfax, Va., is ready to take a semester off after the year she has had. She got divorced, became a single mother of five children ages 7 to 15, moved and started a new job and faced several personal health issues. Her father also died. This Saturday (Aug. 14), Emery will get a break from school when she picks up her bachelor of arts degree in letters, arts and sciences during Penn State’s summer commencement at University Park campus.

“I’ve had a long, long year,” said Emery, 33, who worked full time with the U.S. Department of Energy while pursuing her degree. She supports a radiological assistance and response program, which is part of the government’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Homeland Security homeland security efforts. “I was in a medical swamp for most of the year,” Emery added. She experienced a complex migraine, which is similar to a stroke, and also underwent heart surgery.

Since enrolling in Penn State World Campus, the University’s online campus, in summer 2009, Emery has surmounted a series of challenges, with the help of her children. All five will be on hand to watch her graduate. “They’ve had to sacrifice and take on additional responsibilities to help me. I want them to see this is what we’ve all worked so hard for,” Emery said.

Emery grew up in Phoenix and graduated from high school at age 16. She was offered admission to the University of Southern California, but stayed only three days due to housing not being ready on time and having no other place to live in the meantime. “Education wasn’t a big thing in my family,” she said. When her parents were not able to help her financially with college, she suspended her education plans, marrying, enlisting in the U.S. Navy and starting a family. She continued to apply to college, but wasn’t financially able to enroll again for many years.

A desire to prepare herself for a job that could help support her growing family led Emery to earn an associate degree from Valencia Community College in Florida. Emery worked hard, taking many courses each semester and completing her degree in three semesters, becoming the first in her family to earn a college degree.

With the same strong work ethic and dedication, she accomplished a similar feat at Penn State, completing her bachelor’s degree in three semesters with a 3.6 grade point average. Emery had to take several semesters off to deal with her health and other challenges. She completed her last eight courses this summer, including one a at a local community college.

A fan of the Big Ten and Pac-10, Emery searched for universities with online programs within these collegiate football regions, ultimately selecting Penn State for her bachelor’s degree, which is offered by the College of the Liberal Arts and delivered online through World Campus. Commencement marks Emery’s third trip to University Park campus. She previously participated in an All-University Day, getting to play the role of the Nittany Lion mascot during the Penn State World Campus reception. “It was fantastic,” she said.

What’s next? “I promised my dad before he died that I’d get my master’s degree,” Emery said. And she will continue to coach cheerleading for her children’s youth league. But first, she’s taking a well-deserved break from school.

For more information on Penn State's World Campus, visit online.


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Last Updated November 18, 2010