Sandra Burner

Sandra_BurnerIt was the spring semester of 2009 when I nervously entered through the doors of Lord Fairfax Community College. I was a 42 year old single mom with a nine year old son. The two years prior had seen enough changes to last a lifetime. I had lost my wonderful husband of twenty three years to cancer, and my once successful career of twenty years to the economy.

By the grace of God, and the great country we are blessed to live in, I would be provided assistance to raise my son for the next several years. However, I knew that was only temporary. I desperately needed to find another career, a way for me to provide for our future. With only a high school diploma the type of career I required would most likely be unattainable. Reluctantly, I had to accept yet another change must be in my future; furthering my education was my only option.  

Change is never easy. Adapting to a classroom after twenty years was definitely not easy. Going from being confident and secure in my life, to doubtful and uncertain of my future, brought with it stress that at times seemed intolerable.  

Yet encouragement from my family and friends was always abundant, as they encouraged me on this new journey. They constantly encouraging me to press on, even when I felt the tasks were unattainable. Their support came in more ways than I could ever name, as they helped with everything from laundry to mowing.  

My family learned to watch TV with no volume, and my son “tried” to entertain my grandsons quietly so I could study. He and I would frequently study together, finding we were often working on similar topics. And at times, especially with history, it was unclear who was helping whom. 

In addition, support always came from fellow students. Without their constant help and encouragement, I am sure I would not be standing here today.  Study groups became regular events, as we struggled to conquer subjects like calculus, chemistry and less not forget anatomy and physiology. We not only mastered these subjects, but we built friendships that went beyond age and ethnicity.

Continual support also came from an ever helpful and encouraging administration, as well as all the wonderful professors I have been privileged to sit under. Even though they often required more work than I could conceive, they encouraged and inspired me every step of the way. The knowledge and insight I have gleaned from them is beyond measure, and I will be forever grateful. 

This endless support group has enabled me to continue on, even when it seemed impossible. It has allowed me to leave this Institution with three Associates Degrees and academic success beyond my greatest expectations.  

Today, I have shared a little bit of my story, how I came to be here and the trials I have overcome. But I know we all have a story; stories of obstacles that seemed too large to overcome, of problems that seemed too complicated to solve.

We have all spent endless hours studying, memorizing, researching and writing; as we tried to balance our lives and responsibilities with our need to be academically successful. We met deadlines we thought we could never meet; we passed exams we thought we could never pass. And we achieved, we are here today because we refused to give up, we continued to press on, and we overcame.  

Yet, most importantly, this is only a plateau, a stepping stone to more challenges. As each of us pass through the doors of Lord Fairfax Community College for the last time, we will go into many different directions. Some of us will go into the work force; some of us will go on to Universities to continue our education.

Whatever upcoming change we have in our future, we will go prepared with the knowledge we have acquired, destine toward our next challenge, our next change.

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