For Katrina Patterson, 61, of Mesa, age is just a number. Her determination to finish her degree at Mesa Community College will pay off when she walks across the stage to receive her diploma amidst the applause of her two children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
“I’m so proud to be here,” Patterson said. “I did this for myself, I did this for Katrina. After raising children and working, I went to school for myself.”
The path to her degree was not an easy one. Born in Norfolk, Virginia, she worked as a nurse for 37 years, saving her money for the day she could attend college. She retired in 2000 when she developed two autoimmune disorders. Further medical conditions followed, including blindness in her right eye, a coma and a brain operation.
Despite these experiences, with the support and encouragement of her family, she enrolled at MCC in 2009 at age 57. Her son told her not to let her age be a deterrent. Her religious faith also gave her strength.
“I believe God runs the whole program,” Patterson said. “I asked him to let me go to school so I could feel good about myself.”
Patterson faced another challenge during her last semester when she lost her husband of 39 years.
“It was devastating,” Patterson said. “I thought I wouldn’t complete my degree because of the stress of his death, but I did, with help from my support system.”
Patterson will graduate with a degree in criminal justice and a certificate in victimology. It’s a natural fit for her since she has a background in nursing and helping people.
She said her experience at MCC has been excellent.
“I may not have a 4.0, but I still made decent grades,” Patterson said. “I volunteered to help other students and the time I spent with them was wonderful. And, my instructors were excellent.”
Patterson would like to encourage others who want to pursue a college degree to enroll at MCC.
“Don’t think about it, just do it,” she said. “If your heart is in it, do it. God will allow it. Four years later, look at me. I’m a graduate!”