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February 05, 2018 : After a thirty-seven year break, student returns to college to finish what she started

by Sarah Shy


JudyKraftThere is a certain point in life when some people may think it is too late to go to college or further their minds and careers through academia. Sometimes life opens doors to opportunities that some people decide to walk through no matter how scary or hard the choice. Judy Kraft took what some might find debilitating and found ways to forge her own path in life.


“The choice to go back to school was not an easy one. I had always wanted to complete my degree after the kids had grown up, but the timing was never right, and I guess in hindsight, it never will be. After thirty-three years my husband ended our marriage and moved out of state. When he left, I was unemployed, had no medical insurance and had an incomplete education” Kraft said.


For a time, Kraft was put into a tough situation, but she ultimately turned it around to her advantage and pursued new opportunities. She decided, this would be her time to tackle goals she had put aside for years. Like many other people trying to decide the best timing, she was a little nervous taking the leap into college.


“I was very apprehensive at first, wondering if I was smart enough to go back to school. but once I got on campus, experienced the culture, and completed a couple of classes, I knew that everything would be okay.” She said.


When asked what had sparked her interest in going back to college, she shared that not only was she going back for her own reasons, but she was thinking of her granddaughters and wanted to give them an image of strength and perseverance through her example.


“At that time, I was the “staff on duty” for a Bridges out of Poverty seminar that was offered to the community. I decided to attend the seminar. Deb Smith—an OUL Professor—was one of the facilitators. During that seminar I saw so much of my current life and the lightbulb finally clicked on. If I did not earn my Bachelor’s degree, it was pretty certain that I would be locked into low paying, part-time jobs for the rest of my life. That was not the future that I envisioned for myself or the example I wanted to set for my granddaughters.” Kraft said.


Kraft, now a senior communications major at OUL had previously gone to college, but she has stated much has change since the last time she was enrolled and for the better.


“It is so much easier today to be a college student because of technology. Just the experience of taking classes from your home is mind blowing. If someone had predicted that thirty-seven years ago, I would have thought they were crazy!”


Besides going to college, she is employed at Lancaster First United Methodist Church as the Administrative Assistant of Discipleship and Outreach. She has learned to balance her work, college life and personal life, relying on organization and technology.


“The best strategy that I have found is using technology to keep me organized. My phone, laptop, and tablet all talk to each other so it is easy to work seamlessly. I have my personal, work, and school e-mail accounts on all my devices, so it’s easy to stay connected. I also take advantage of all the alert apps that professors utilize. I need to be aware of deadlines and due dates. I try to work ahead when I can. I also utilize online classes since they allow flexibility as well. Fridays are homework-free days for me because I do need to have some down time.” Kraft said.


Like so many other students that come to Ohio University Lancaster, she chose it because it is close to home and for its variety of degree programs available.


“I chose OUL because of the location and I was also impressed that they offered programs that focus on the local community. I knew that I would be able to get my degree here and be able to use it in Fairfield County.” She said.


Through her degree, she has chosen to use her experiences in life to guide others who might be trying to navigate the rough patches of life.


“I chose my major because it made the most sense for what I wanted to do after graduation—some form of human services advocacy. After my husband left, I was left with nothing and didn’t know where to start. I want to help others navigate the complexities and red tape involved with starting over or getting back on their feet.” She said.


In her free-time, Judy has spent hours looking for scholarship opportunities and this has helped her pay for much of her student loans. She was adamant about not accumulating student debt and she was very cunning in finding ways to pay for her student loans.


“I played around a bit on the Internet and set up a few searches. At first, I bookmarked the scholarship web pages, then I went back and looked at the requirements more closely. I applied for a total of nine scholarships. I was awarded six for a dollar amount that was just shy of $5,000.00. It’s hard to say how much time I spent searching, but I tried to dedicate at least three to four hours a week working on scholarships. I even created a spreadsheet that tracked all of the information I needed to apply for scholarships, especially paying attention to important dates.” She said.


Unlike many other campuses, Ohio University Lancaster’s size creates a smaller but supportive group of professors, faculty and students alike. Kraft has made great rapport with her professors and finds comfort in having that support system.


“OUL feels like family to me. Everyone supports each other. Instructors are understanding, encouraging, and truly want their students to succeed. The encouragement that I receive from my academic advisor, Dr. Thomas-Maddox has been priceless!”


Kraft plans to find a career within Fairfield County and help others either through human services or in the healthcare industry after she graduates. Motivated by her granddaughters, Kraft plans to keep on blazing through life like a wildfire.


Ohio University Lancaster Campus | Pickerington Center offers 11 bachelors’ and 14 associate degrees that can be fully completed at the campus or students can begin any of the more than 250 degrees Ohio University offers. For more information, visit