It’s Never Too Late to Shine

May 11, 2020

Not every collegiate journey follows a traditional path straight from high school to higher education, and even those that do may encounter struggles along the way. But no matter the path you take, there’s always the chance to succeed in the end and achieve academic success. Our members remind us of that on a regular basis.

Tammy Lilly croppedTammy Lilly – Fontbonne University
Lilly started with a traditional route – entering college right after high school. Soon, though, she decided to leave school to focus on marriage and family. After 22 years, she returned with a new goal. “I was starting all over from the beginning, a different degree, no credit hours transferable, two kids, a husband, and a full-time career,” she shared. “I re-entered university with a focus to finish with a 4.0 GPA.” The added maturity, she feels, led to a richer experience.

“It's never too late to pursue something that is important to you. And, self-satisfaction should always be the primary reason why someone wants to better themselves. Not what others think or don't think. Not what others say or don't say,” said Lilly. As advice to other students, she adds, “If it was easy everyone would have a degree and then the value of a degree would be minimized simply by virtue of is commonality. You are worth it so invest in yourself!”

In 2008, Lilly accomplished her goal and graduated with a B.A. and a membership in Phi Kappa Phi. “Done! One of my greatest achievements!”

Jacob Lisak croppedJacob Lisak – Western Michigan University
Lisak struggled in high school and grades were not a focus. “I think there’s a lot of young people out there who feel that they’re stuck on a path for life,” he noted. Lisak has three people to thank for getting back on track. At the top of his list are his parents who always believed in his potential. He also is grateful for his guidance counselor. “He was always someone I could talk to and seemed to dedicate himself to the kids who were struggling. He gave me a big chance to join a law enforcement vocational tech program in high school that was new and difficult to get into. The class was amazing, and it was the first time I felt passionate about school and learning,” said Lisak.

He hopes college students take advantage of the opportunities available to them. “Enjoy it,” he advises. “It’s so much more difficult to socialize when you’re older. Take time to join the clubs and groups that you find interesting in school. There will be far less opportunities to do this later in life.”

Now with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and a master’s degree in social work, Lisak is proud of his accomplishments – including his invitation to join Phi Kappa Phi. “Finding out I was in the top 7.5 [percent] of my class felt great, and it was the first time I had acknowledgement that I was excelling at anything school related.”

Skyler Pretto croppedSkyler Pretto – Florida Institute of Technology
Twelve years after dropping out of high school, Pretto decided to work toward a G.E.D. His appetite for learning combined with the hopes of broadening his career possibilities were the driving force behind the decision. “If there is anything I would tell myself in high school, it would probably be that life does not get any easier when one chooses to not pursue a better education for themselves, a better life, a better career path,” he shared.

Now as an electrical engineering student at FIT, the goal of graduation is right around the corner. To his fellow students, he urges them not to worry about their pace or compare themselves to others. “Their desire to learn—their willingness to challenge themselves—is what will drive their success, not just scholastically, but in life,” said Pretto.

Earning an invitation to join Phi Kappa Phi has been a highlight of his return to school. He said, “This is the greatest scholastic achievement of my life, thus proving that it is never too late to get a better education.”

What about you?
Do you have your own inspirational story? We'd love to hear it! Email to share.