OCSEA spouse: What free college means to me

Posted Jun. 26, 2019 by

Take Action! An amendment to Ohio's state budget could decrease state funding for Eastern Gateway beginning July 1. While the college core program will remain for OCSEA members no matter what, the amendment impacts the state subsidy that helps Eastern Gateway grow and add additional programs and services. To support a robust Free College program for OCSEA members and their family, please write your state representative and state senator and ask them to support the Ohio House version of the state budget that would help keep Eastern Gateway growing into the future. Click HERE to send an instant email to your elected officials.

OCSEA spouse writes about the power of union free college program

A college education means so much to so many. But an affordable (and flexible) college opportunity means the world to so many union members and families for whom expensive tuition is out of reach.

This includes members like Ohio Attorney General employee Justin Edgington, whose wife, Stacie, graduated from Eastern Gateway in May with an Associate Degree in Business--all for absolutely no out-of-pocket costs to burden their family.

OCSEA is proud to have been the pioneer in the union free college program, which opened the door of convenient online, no-cost college to union members and their family. Since the absolutely-free associate degree partnership between OCSEA and Eastern Gateway Community College began four years ago, the union program has expanded, not only opening doors for OCSEA members but for all AFSCME and AFL-CIO members nationwide.

Stacie Edgington recently wrote to OCSEA about what this union benefit has meant to her and her family. “From the bottom of my heart and soul, I thank you all. Without the Union, I don’t know if or when I would have found the ‘how’ to finish my degree.” Read more in her own words:

I started college right out of high school at Franklin University. I went to school at night while working full time at Gates McDonald. One summer I decided to take a break and then life happened. Marriage, children, careers and homes and it got pushed to the back burner. But that seed was planted deep inside me; that someday I would finish what I had started.

Fast forward about 10 years later and my Uncle Matt was in town from Arizona. He is really into Japanese culture and cuisine so he, my sister and I went to a Japanese restaurant. We ate and afterwards stopped into a Japanese gift store. He bought my sister and me a Daruma doll. He explained that this doll is a symbol of good luck and perseverance. It is made of papier-mache, round hollow and weighted at the bottom so that it will always return to an upright position when tilted over. In Japanese culture Daruma is often illustrated alongside the phrase “Nanakorobi Yaoki” translated “seven times down, eight times up”. It has two hollow white eyes and when you set a goal you color the left eye in and it “watches you” until the goal is completed. It is a constant reminder of a goal that you wish to accomplish. As my sister pondered what goal she would set, I knew mine right away! When I got home I colored the left eye of my Daruma doll in and set my goal; someday I will finish my college degree. It sat on my kitchen window ledge for many years. Every morning as I was getting my tea I would look at it. It would look back at me with its one eye reminding me. Some days I would look at it saying to myself, it’s never going to happen, I can’t afford to go back to school, I am so busy with my family, I would never have time even if I could find a way to pay for it. So, I continued living my life and the Daruma doll sat there reminding me.

One day, just as normal as any other day I was checking my email and out of the clear blue sky there was an email from the Union announcing free college for members and their spouses. I read it quickly and had to run off to work. My husband got home shortly after me and saw the email and called me right away. He said “you have to do it”, “this is how you are going to be able to finish”! I went into my office and wrote on a post it note one of my favorite quotes by Victor E. Frankl: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how”.

In late 2016 I enrolled at Eastern Gateway Community College and in May 2019, I did it! I have my Associates degree in Business. The journey was long and not without sacrifice from myself and my family but the immense self-satisfaction I felt was worth it all. I have a quiet confidence in me that I didn’t have before running my business. The first question people always ask me is “what are you going to do now”? And my answer is simply nothing. I am going to keep living and working and knowing that I have an extra parachute with me if or when I need it.

From the bottom of my heart and soul, I thank you all. Without the Union I don’t know if or when I would have found the “how” to finish my degree.

I hope they continue to offer this program as is. And I encourage those who have benefited from the program to contact their legislators. Education is very important. It’s something you carry with you your entire life. I was the first person to graduate from college in my family, and I hope I’m not the last.