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ENMU student takes long path to degree

When Eric Duran receives his degree from Eastern New Mexico University on Saturday, his mother won’t be there as a spectator — and he couldn’t be happier.

Instead, Jolene Duran will join her son as an ENMU graduate, 22 years after she first started her college studies.

The Durans are two of 220 set to graduate this weekend at ENMU’s ceremony, which will be at 10 a.m. in the Greyhound Arena.

Jolene Duran, who works as an institutional research specialist in the university’s planning services office, said there were several times where she never thought she’d receive her degree in family and consumer sciences, which she started working on in 1982.

“I started off taking classes just to take classes,” she said. “I wasn’t going for a degree when I first started.”

She was working a full-time job as a secretary in the admissions office, and she had to take care of her two children — Eric and Melissa, who is now a freshman at ENMU.

Over the years, she’s taken semesters with two to three classes. Even with a light course schedule, she admits there have been challenges.

“It’s hard at times taking two classes, working full-time, going home to kids,” Jolene said. “It’s pretty discouraging. Finding time to study and do all your homework was really hard at times.”

Many times, she even thought about giving up.

“(I took) one big break, about seven or eight years worth,” Jolene Duran said. “I just wasn’t motivated enough then. I didn’t know if that was what I wanted to do. I had small kids, so I didn’t know what to do.”

Along the way, she learned to just keep working for her degree, even as it changed every 10 years. She is now working on a degree plan with completely different requirements than the ones her children are working on.

“In our degree plan, you have 10 years to get the degree or you have to move up to the new plan,” Jolene said.

As the degree plans changed, so did her positions at the university. In 1991, she started working at the planning services office and knew a degree would be a benefit for her.

She still kept the same approach of only a few classes per semester, and eventually ran into some familiar classmates — her children.

“This last semester I was in a class with my son and a class with my daughter,” Jolene said. “I thought my son would have the problem with it, but he didn’t. I think the kids enjoyed taking classes with me and I enjoyed taking classes with them.”

It was an experience all three enjoyed, but 23-year-old Eric admits to early trepidation.

“The first class I took (with her) I was kind of nervous about it because she’s a better student than I am,” said Eric, who is graduating with a degree in university studies, with an emphasis in computer information systems and art.

Eric needed five-and-a-half years to graduate, but said he took a long route to graduation for different reasons — he changed his major twice and had a few personal problems that he said created semesters of poor grades.

That’s where he said his mother came in.

“She encouraged me a lot to be in school,” Eric Duran said. “There were a few things in the past. I was really having some things going on and she helped me through.”

In the same way, Jolene Duran credits her mother for pushing her along.

“There were a couple of times that I almost said, ‘The heck with it,’” Jolene Duran said. “My mother kept saying, ‘You’ve got to do it, you’ve got to do it. You’ll be better off for it.’”

Through the years, she’s taken some classes that don’t exist anymore (file management, a secretarial class), some classes she doesn’t think exist anymore (social dance) and some classes that are filled with freshmen half her age.

One of those freshmen is Melissa, 18. Melissa Duran said she took an art appreciation class with her mother and admitted that it was a different experience than the rest of her classload.

“It’s different because she knows what to do that day so she makes you do it (when you’re at home),” Melissa Duran said. “And you have to go to class, because she’s there. You can’t skip a class if she’s there.”

Melissa won’t have to worry about that pressure again, as her mother is now finished with a degree plan that started four years before she was born.

Time will tell when and if Melissa will be a graduate along with her relatives. For now, it’s only an experience she can live through her brother and mother.

“To graduate, with all the hard times I’ve gone through in college, it’s amazing to be graduating,” Eric Duran said. “This whole (finals) week has been great. Graduating with my mom just make it 10 times better.”

Mom couldn’t agree more.

“It is great. I didn’t ever think I would make it. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet. It’s a great feeling to get it over with.”