The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, May 10, 2004  

100 Percent Determination

Congratulations to Joanne Alane Holmes, B.A., Class of ’04, freshly graduated from La Salle University.

If it were mathematically possible to alter the equation in the headline above, Holmes would deserve the dispensation. After all, it took Holmes, 41, Willingboro, N.J., 16 years to earn her bachelor’s degree in social work. Let’s call it 100 percent determination.

Natalie Pompilio reports in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, “She Got Educated by Degrees”:

For Holmes and her mother, Josephine Wade, it was a day of celebration and triumph. Together, they had scrimped and struggled and, ultimately, survived. […]

A high school dropout, she took nine years to earn her associate’s degree from Community College of Philadelphia. She enrolled at La Salle in 1997, juggling classes while raising four children on her own and working multiple jobs. […]

Money was always a problem: Holmes would go to school, then drop out because of the cost. She moved in with her mother. She took out loans, was awarded grants, and it still wasn’t enough. This year, Wade sold some treasured artwork at local flea markets so the family could get by.

And there were personal struggles. Three failed marriages. The 1999 death of her stepfather, a loss that so devastated Holmes she dropped out of school, taking failing grades in all her classes. […]

She wasn’t ready to go back to school until 2002. Her mother was behind her. “We made a commitment to each other,” said Wade, 70. “No matter what, she was going to finish. No matter what.”

Holmes’ grade-point average was 1.67 when she returned. As of yesterday, it was 3.06, and she was a member of the Phi Alpha National Social Work Honor Society. […]

Through [the graduation exercises], Wade was quiet. […] She hadn’t been to a graduation before, not counting the small ceremony held when a grandson moved from middle school to high school.

Then finally, it happened. “Joanne Alane Holmes,” a voice announced.

The group went wild, cheering, screaming, jumping up and down. Except for Wade. She didn’t scream. She barely moved. She just laughed, her eyes growing wet with tears. […]

“Words can’t describe” is all she said.

Congratulations again, and a belated happy Mother’s Day to both women.

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