Lisa teDuits wanted to set a good example for her three sons. So she returned to school and finished her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice – 27 years after she started.
“I wanted to complete this degree first for myself,” teDuits says. “I also wanted to show my sons how important education is, to finish what you start.”
She earned an associate degree and paralegal certificate at Middlesex Community College in 1986 and went to work full time for a small law firm, then took jobs at bigger firms, including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and Comcast. But she soon realized that most paralegal jobs require a bachelor’s degree, so she decided to continue her education at UMass Lowell.
She took one night class at a time, even as she married and had her first son, Ryan, in 2000. Twenty months later, she gave birth to twin sons; Bradley and Colin were two months premature, so she quit work and school to care for them.
“I am a typical mother who puts herself last and her family first,” she says.
When the twins, now healthy, turned 6 and started school, teDuits took a part-time job at the Groton School, a private school in the town where her family lives. Five years ago, she stepped up to a full-time position in the business office, where she uses her paralegal skills in some of her job responsibilities, including helping to review and revise contracts.
Wanting to finish her bachelor’s degree, but concerned about the cost when she and her husband were trying to save money for their sons’ college educations, teDuits asked the Groton School for tuition assistance. The school agreed to pay for her last six classes, and she enrolled through UML’s Division of Online and Continuing Education.
“The online classes gave me the flexibility to juggle working full time, being a mom, not missing any of my sons’ sporting events and helping with elderly parents and their needs,” she says. “I took six classes in two years, and I was so happy to see my diploma arrive in the mail!”
In the process, teDuits has passed on her academic work ethic to her sons. Ryan is studying business at Worcester State, and the twins, now high school juniors, have already toured UMass Lowell and plan to apply for fall 2020.
“My sons witnessed me studying, stressing over tests, writing multiple papers and getting excited over receiving great grades,” teDuits says. “I did not think it was fair for me to ask my sons to do their best in school and not have the same expectation for myself. I wanted to show them how hard I was working to finish, and that I always put in my best effort.”