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Husband, wife get YSU degrees the nontraditional way



Published: Sat, August 17, 2013 @ 12:01 a.m.

By DENISE DICK

denise_dick@vindy.com

Youngstown

While other people their age cheer on their children and grandchildren from the Beeghly Center stands at today’s Youngs-town State University summer commencement, Darlene and Harold Brown will be walking across the stage to get their own diplomas.

Darlene, 56, earned her bachelor’s degree in social work, while her husband, Harold, 67, earned his associate’s degree in social work. Both enrolled at YSU in 2008.

The year before, Darlene read a story in The Vindicator about a man who completed his coursework at YSU at age 60. She suggested that she and Harold consider following suit.

The couple moved to the city from Cleveland in 2006. She’s originally from New Castle, Pa.; he’s from Cleveland. They moved to Youngstown for personal reasons.

Darlene is on disability for bad knees after working as a cook in a steak and gyro restaurant, and Harold is retired from Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co.

“We were looking for something to do,” Harold said.

At first, the prospect of going back to school after so many years intimidated the couple.

They worried about what they’d forgotten since high school, how to study and fitting in with younger, traditional students.

They sought help through the university’s Reading and Study Skills Center.

“They teach you how to study,” Harold said.

The teacher there advised him not to worry about trying to keep up with younger students but to concentrate on grasping the concepts in class.

“Once you get it, you’ll get it,” the instructor told him. “That was the best advice.”

The work wasn’t always easy. Darlene had to take algebra twice, working with a tutor to pass. She finished with a 3.4 grade-point average and membership in several honor and scholastic societies.

Harold finished his studies with a 3.32 GPA and also belonged to honor societies on campus.

It didn’t take long for the couple to fit in with other students regardless of age differences. Students in the social-work program are a tight-knit group, Darlene said.

“We were welcomed in,” she said.

Professors, many of them younger than the couple, also were available to help, they said.

While they say they didn’t try to act like they knew more than anyone else, sometimes the Browns were like surrogate parents or grandparents for other students, offering advice when asked.

Living together while both going to school did call for some rules for the couple.

“We learned two things early on: Don’t study together and don’t take classes together,” Darlene chuckled.

Darlene takes her time studying, while Harold quickly runs through his work. He’s chatty in class, while she’s quiet.

Harold could have graduated last December with his degree but decided to take a few more courses toward a bachelor’s degree and graduate today, with Darlene.

“I figured we started this together, I wanted us to finish it together,” he said.

While earning her degree, Darlene worked at the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley and decided that’s the kind of work she wants to do.

“I loved being there,” she said.

Darlene plans to study for her license and then seek a job helping addicted women with children. Harold hopes to be a licensed drug and alcohol counselor.

The Browns encourage other older adults considering a degree to go for it.

“The help is there if you ask for it, but you have to ask,” Harold said.


Comments

1handymandave(204 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

You entered the employment market just when your friend Obama has blessed us with an unbelievable abundant job outlook. Hang in there, looks like in about 3 years things should open up. In the meantime, start gearing up for the next democratic presidential candidate that will carry on the policies that have made this country as job needy as we are now you'll have plenty of time as your sitting at home looking at those shiny new sheep skins to ponder your next moves!

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2koevolution(36 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

With friends like you they need no enemies ...
I'm not sure were you learned to read , my company began to suffer during the Bush administration.
Crap rolls down hill.

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3JoeFromHubbard(880 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

disability for bad knees

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4sknirak(120 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

Anyway, congratulations to Mr and Mrs Brown. A lot of people don't get a college degree so it's a feather in their cap as the saying goes. The best of luck with it.

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5sweatpea(108 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

Mr and Mrs Brown, Congratualtions. You have accomplished something that sadly, very few people in our area accomplish- percentage wise. Why people like you are not lauded more in our media escapes me. You are both to be applauded.

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6AllCapsGrandpa(12 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

THATS GREAT THAT THEY GOT THEIR DEGREES BUT IF THESE WERE YOUNG PEOPLE LOOKING TO GO OUT AND GET GOOD PAYING JOBS WITH THEIR SOCIAL WORK DEGREES THEY WOULD BE IN A WORLD OF HURT

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