BRADENTON -- Four children came between Theresa McCoy, 53, and higher education.
After high school, she started college in Maryland, but didn’t graduate.
She raised two sons and two daughters before she saw her second chance.
“When my children moved out, I came back to school,” the Sarasota resident said in the lobby of the Neel Performing Arts Center at State College of Florida’s Bradenton campus.
She clutched a two-year nursing degree Friday after winter commencement ceremonies.
No, it wasn’t easy.
As a single, working parent, “it got tough,” she admitted.
She picked nursing because 25 years ago, her daughter was born prematurely, but was saved by western medicine.
“I discovered I have a nurse’s heart,” said McCoy, who earns her living as a licensed practical nurse at Sarasota’s Harmony Healthcare center.
Ayana Burke, the child born prematurely, is now an adult who is the picture of health.
She and her brother, Ira Serrant, 16, had attended commencement to honor their mother’s effort.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” said Burke. “She raised her children, and now, she’s pursuing her goals.”
McCoy isn’t finished: She plans to continue her studies for a baccalaureate degree in nursing.
Then she wants a master’s degree, too.
She’s trying to set a good example.
“It’s a good day,” sighed McCoy. “You know you can show your family better than you can tell them.”
About 750 students were eligible for graduation, and 199 attended commencement, officials said.
The Outstanding Graduate Award for superior leadership went to William Graydon, a decorated Army vet from Venice; The President’s Award of Distinction went to John M. McKay, Bradenton businessman and former president of the Florida Senate; the guest speaker was Dr. Donald Sullivan, also a Florida Senate alum, who is referred to as the “father of the State College System” for his work expanding access to baccalaureate education.
There was plenty of pomp and circumstance, festive red and white poinsettias, and music.
But it was just another big day in the life of Marissa Anguiano, 23, of Sarasota.
She’s had plenty of big days this year: She got married, had a baby, bought a house, and Friday, she picked up her two-year degree in criminal justice.
“I feel great,” said Anguiano as her family beamed. “I feel accomplished.”
She wants to attend the police academy and work in law enforcement, she said.
Angela L. Jackson, 22, of Bradenton, got her A.A. degree in business.
She will start in Jan- uary at the University of South Florida, where she’ll pursue a bachelor’s degree in management and marketing.
“I plan to start my own interior design business,” said Jackson, who has been working part-time as a human resource associate at her family’s business, Galati Yacht Sales.
Another grad wanted to continue at USF for a bachelor’s degree, too.
“I have big plans for my future,” said Robert Hunter, 22, of Sarasota, whose SCF degree was in natural science.
He wants to continue to study for a master’s and a doctorate in geology.
It took him awhile to think of his favorite class at SCF because there were so many good ones, but he finally settled upon astrobiology.
“It’s studying biology on other planets,” he explained.
So, what will he do with his education?
“I want to go on adventures around the world,” he said. “My dream is to go to the Galapagos Islands and study the tortoises.”
“It’s been my childhood dream since the fourth grade.”
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.