Mother/daughter graduate together at NWC

by marlys good

Graduation at Northwest College in Powell this year was a family affair for Susan LaFollette and Ashley Hopkin. Mom Susan (who didn’t walk through the ceremony) was awarded AA degrees in both psychology and sociology (she already holds an AA degree in communications “from a long time ago”) while Ashley, capped and gowned, received her AA degree in elementary education.

Both will begin working on their bachelor’s degrees this fall, Ashley at the University of Wyoming where she will be going into speech, hearing and language sciences and eventually plans to get her master’s degree in speech pathology. Her long-term goal is to teach speech pathology.

Susan will continue her degree work through the outreach program offered by the University of Wyoming. “I’ll do it all at home,” she explained, “online, through programs offered (via television) at the high school. I want to earn my psychology degree. I would like to (try to be) a speech therapist, but you can‘t do a lot of the majors like that online.“

The mother-daughter team didn’t have any classes together at NWC but Ashley said, “I saw her all the time. I enjoyed knowing she was there – having her around.“

Susan was about three-quarters of her way to a bachelor’s degree in social work from BYU Utah (she also attended Rick’s College) when she interrupted her career path to have her family.

Twenty-seven years and five children later, she got back on track. “I was single, raising my kids, five of them, and time-wise and money-wise it wasn’t feasible to do (return to college) until a couple of years ago.”

When she enrolled at NWC, at the urging, encouragement and push of her kids, she found that, “I took some of the wrong classes and some of the credits were so old, they wouldn’t transfer. I had to take a lot of the same classes over. It was hard to have to look at my credits and realize a lot were too old to count anymore. I just had to get over it, deal with it and go on.”

“I drove to Powell for a little while, but it was expensive to drive back and forth, so I did most of them online. What Northwest didn’t have I got through Western Wyoming College in Rock Springs, and LCCC in Laramie.”

As for sharing NWC with Ashley, Susan said, “It was kind of cool. Education is very important, definitely. My oldest daughter, Angela, attends the University of Idaho in Moscow, she’s a music education major, and son Joshua just graduated from Greybull High School and will be attending Northwest College this fall (daughter Autumn with be a GHS junior, and son Jeremy, will be a sixth grader).

Ashley has high praise for NWC. “It was a good choice for me. I actually got paid to go to school for two years, and every credit I earned transfers to UW. Coming from Greybull, Powell was a good transition for me. It was a great place to start and a good stepping stone to somewhere bigger.”

She is proud of what she accomplished, and also of what her mother accomplished. “I think it gave her a lot of confidence. It was a really, really good step for her; I supported her decision all along, and I was happy that she did it.“

Susan encourages people to step forward, follow their dream and “not get discouraged. It is harder when you are older and have a family, but I can be done. I was really, really scared to try it. I didn’t know if I could do it or not. But my daughters really encouraged me and gave me a lot of motivation.”