Lone Star College student essay winner finds confidence and belonging upon returning to college at age 45

Lone Star College student Kara Vigants represents everything positive about a returning college student over 40, including a love of learning. She recently won the 2014 Lone Star College Foundation Student Essay Challenge by writing about her learning experience and how it has influenced her life. Vigants and her award-winning student essay were recognized at the Lone Star College Chancellor’s Breakfast on Feb. 5.

Happily married for more than 20 years, she has a daughter, Elizabeth, currently attending the University of Texas. Born in Canada, Vigants has traveled the world and lived in three countries. Dreams of obtaining a college degree that began in 1985 remained undiminished despite life’s interruptions.

After her daughter left for college, Vigants had the time along with a renewed sense of self to take courses at LSC-University Park, LSC-Tomball and LSC-Kingwood in pursuit of a career in the healthcare industry. During three semesters as a Lone Star College student, she has also found the motivation to learn scuba diving.

The following is Vigants’ award-winning student essay:

How My Lone Star College Experience Has Influenced My Life by Kara Vigants

Confidence and renewed ambition, this is what my Lone Star experience has given me. I represent a small segment of the student population here at Lone Star; the older student returning to school after a long absence. I am a forty-six year old mother whose daughter left for University this fall and I am finally taking the time to do something for me. I began my quest for a college degree in 1985, but a devastating car accident and subsequent illness kept me from reaching my goal. Instead, I married my college sweetheart, had a wonderful child (my daughter Elizabeth) and got to travel the world. I have been fortunate enough to explore the Egyptian pyramids, learn to sail in the Gulf of Thailand, and eat the most delicious gelato in Venice. My life has been interesting and oftentimes exciting and I have enjoyed it immensely.

I should have been satisfied with my life, but I wasn't. I found that as the years went on I felt increasingly disconnected from the person I once was; the young girl who had set off to college with a suitcase full of dreams and no inkling of the limitations that life can impose on you. I was ashamed that I had never gotten that college degree. While I understood and accepted the choices I had made, I still regretted never having “become” anything. Yes I was a great mother and, I believe, a very good spouse, but I had in fact, given up on me. I lost confidence in myself and in my abilities. Always a shy person, I became even more withdrawn. It was as though when I was among others, (especially the well-educated parents of my daughter’s college bound friends), I was wearing a sign around my neck that read “Dropout! Loser!” I was unhappy and I needed to change.

Last year I decided that enough was enough and that it was time to return to school and get that elusive degree. I chose Lone Star for a number of reasons: it was convenient, inexpensive and most importantly, used to dealing with older students like me. For the next two weeks I spent every evening preparing for the entrance exam and the “Idiot's Guide to Algebra” became my preferred bedside reading. Finally, the time came for me to take the test. I walked from the parking garage, through the never ending hallway toward the testing center, my heart pounding so hard it felt as if it was attacking my chest, trying to escape. “I could just turn around right now,” I said to myself as I approached the door, “I don't have to do this.” As I stood outside the door, I took a deep breath and placed my hand on the doorknob. I had a choice to make. I could turn around and forget I had ever been here, or I could go in and face my fears. My fear of not being smart enough, of not being able to juggle school and still take care of my family, my fear of being just too old.

I opened the door and that door was a gateway home for me, to a world I had never thought I could return to. At Lone Star, I have been able to rekindle my love of learning and found that even with age, my brain works just fine. I have been challenged here and much to my delight I found that I am more than capable of meeting those challenges. Life is a little bit more hectic now. Evenings are spent writing essays, studying biology and learning trigonometry (the “Idiot's Guide To Algebra” was worth every penny), but the work is worth it. With each assignment, test or course that I complete my confidence grows. I now know that I am just as capable as I was twenty-five years ago and that knowledge allows me to dream. I can accomplish anything I want to; be anything I want to be. Lone Star has helped me to realize this. I have never felt out of place, unwelcomed or patronized here; I simply belong. Lone Star has helped me to regain my confidence and to become who I want to be, and for that I am forever grateful.

LSC-University Park is the sixth LSCS campus located in the former Compaq Computer’s world headquarters complex. The 71-acre campus houses four university partners, a charter high school, several business partners, Lone Star Corporate College and the LSC Energy and Manufacturing Institute. Under the first President, Shah Ardalan, LSC-University Park’s vision is to be nationally recognized as the model for the innovative college of the 21st century. In just two years, LSC-University Park’s Invitation-2-Innovate (i2i) has resulted in many local, national and global recognitions, including one patent. The campus is located at the corner of State Highway 249 and Louetta Road across from Vintage Park. For more information about LSC-University Park, call 281.290.2600 or visit LoneStar.edu/UP.

Lone Star College System has been opening doors to a better community for 40 years. Founded in 1973, LSCS remains steadfast in its commitment to student success and credential completion. Today, with 78,000 students in credit classes, and a total enrollment of more than 90,000, Lone Star College System is the largest institution of higher education in the Houston area and the fastest-growing community college system in the nation. Dr. Richard Carpenter is the chancellor of LSCS, which consists of six colleges including LSC-CyFair, LSC-Kingwood, LSC-Montgomery, LSC-North Harris, LSC-Tomball and LSC-University Park, five centers, LSC-University Center at Montgomery, LSC-University Center at University Park, Lone Star Corporate College, and LSC-Online. To learn more visit LoneStar.edu.