It’s never too late to follow your college dreams

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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 52.7 percent of Americans have some college education, but only 27.2 percent have actually obtained a college degree. As more and more students are gearing up to head back to school, there are still many people who have the desire to earn their degree, but haven’t yet done so. For some, it may seem like the opportunity has managed to pass them by and their dream of a college education has slipped away. Demands of an adult life simply got in the way. Nineteen-year Loomis resident, Stephen Lendzion can relate to this scenario first hand. Lendzion had always planned to finish college after taking courses at various junior colleges, but life took a different path and he found himself working in a profession he enjoyed, married and later, a father to two boys. “I always wanted to go back to school but my family came first,” Lendzion admits. His wife of 27 years is a nurse who is currently the assistant director of nurses at Auburn Ravine Terrace, a skilled nursing facility in Auburn. Fast forward nearly 20 years and his boys are grown. One recently graduated from Sierra Academics High School in Auburn and the other is in college. Now, at the age of 53, Lendzion is currently gearing up for another course at William Jessup University’s School of Professional Studies and is pursuing a degree in counseling psychology. In addition, he is the recipient of the WJU Friends & Neighbors Inspired scholarship in the amount of $1,500. The scholarship is awarded to a student with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 who is re-entering college after a prolonged absence. “Being in my 50’s and just now going to school isn’t really what I had planned,” Lendzion said. “Many of my friends and colleagues are nearing retirement, but when I look at the relationships that I am building at WJU, I recognize that I am here at the absolutely right time. Everything seems so right now, so it makes any regrets that I’ve had about the process go away easily.” For the past 15 years, Lendzion has worked as a staff trainer with EMQ FamiliesFirst. Recognized for innovative mental health treatment, Lendzion, along with his colleagues, is largely responsible for developing the curriculum used to train staff that work directly with the children the organization services. He also works with the children facilitating or co-facilitating groups four times a week in addition to his staff training duties. “Although I’m a senior person at EMQ FamiliesFirst, I don’t hold an academic degree,” Lendzion said. “Much of my expertise has been acquired through my hands on work experience. In some people’s eyes, I suppose they wouldn’t give me the credibility that my experience gives me. On the other hand, because of my counseling experience, I’ve been able to assist a couple of my classmates who have little experience in psychology. Some have even sat in on our group sessions to get a better understanding of group facilitation.” The SPS program at William Jessup is designed for adults who may not be able to attend a traditional college program due to their schedule or other commitments. Courses meet just one night a week and undergraduate majors can be completed in as little as 19 months. The program also offers degrees in business administration, counseling psychology, Christian leadership and a post-baccalaureate teacher credential program which can be completed in less than12 months. Although Lendzion won’t be putting on his cap and gown until August of 2011, he would love to be able to teach in a Christian environment when he graduates. When William Jessup University, a 70-year-old institution, relocated its campus from San Jose to Rocklin in 2004, it held a grand opening ceremony at the newly renovated 128-acre campus. Lendzion just so happened to be in attendance that morning with other members of his church. “I remember walking between the buildings and actually tearing up when I imagined how wonderful it would be to attend this school,” he said. “How amazing it would be to learn and challenge one another in this Christian academic environment.” Just six years later, Lendzion is enrolled and a vibrant, active part of the very campus that sparked such emotion from him on that significant grand opening day. His story reminds us that it is never too late to follow your dreams. Here’s to a heartfelt back-to-school season. ~Staff report