Over the past 35 years, Ann Watts raised three sons as a single mother, worked as a waitress to pay the bills and thought about going back to college. When her youngest son reached adulthood, she did it. In December, Ann will earn her associates in science degree from Genesee Community College. Her experience at GCC is featured in a new television ad now being aired on cable and network stations. It can also be viewed on YouTube or GCC's new Adult Learner's Web page:
"Everyone I have encountered at GCC every step of the way has made me feel like my success matters to them," she says in the commercial. "GCC is so much more than I expected."
The new television commercial complements GCC's recently conducted survey focusing on the needs and interests of adult students.
"After the survey, we asked our faculty if they had any students in their classes who might be interested in helping with our new adult learners' TV ad. Ann was recommended by Dr. Thomas Priester, our professor of Transitional Studies," said Donna Rae Sutherland, associate director of Marketing and Communications said.
"Ann's story personifies the experience of so many of GCC's adult students. We hope she will inspire other adults who've long thought about returning to college and have hesitated for many reasons."
Ann last took a college class at age 17. At that time, she was a high school student in Junction City, Kan., and enrolled in a course through Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan.. Her father, retired Major General Ronald Watts, was the commanding officer at Fort Riley Army Base near Junction City.
After high school Ann, now 56, did not pursue further college classwork. She began working as a waitress and started a family. She has three sons, Zach Watts, 29, of Batavia; Taylor Tompkins, 25, of Macon, Ga; and Nicholas Gaudy, 22, of Batavia. She worked for 10 years at Alex's Place Restaurant and now works at Larry's Steakhouse, both in Batavia.
When she returned to school, Ann initially thought she'd pursue a degree in Tourism and Hospitality Management as she'd worked in that industry for so many years. A year into the program she changed her mind.
"I went back to school to get OUT of that business," she said.
She's now pursuing a General Studies degree with an emphasis on Human Services and hopes to work with soldiers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
At GCC, Ann ended up in Career Education Planning (CEP) class with her son Zach.
"It was actually pretty fun," she said. "Once everyone knew I was his mom, all the kids in class starting calling me mom, which was a lot of fun for me and made it a lot easier."
Zach is pursuing a business degree and anticipates graduating in May 2015. Ann's dad, now 80, plans to be in the audience at Commencement. Coincidentally, Zach's fiancée, Sarah Sanchez-Anderson is also attending GCC and was in the same CEP class as well. Ironically, the couple's 2-year old son Carson, Ann's grandson, attends GCC's Daycare Center.
"Attending GCC is almost a family affair for Ann! When Dr. Priester welcomed us into his class for the TV photo shoot, it was truly a live, teaching-learning experience," Sutherland added. "But even without family members in the same class, we learned through our survey that the vast majority of our adult students -- 92 percent in fact, are satisfied with their college experience here."
Once she completes her degree, Ann hopes to land a job at Irwin Army Community Hospital at Fort Riley. That's not the only reason she wants to move back to Kansas. Three years ago she went to her Junction City High School reunion and reconnected with Hal Wilson, with whom she'd had a close friendship in high school. They've been seeing each other ever since.
"Ann's story proves it's never too late to go back to school and pursue your dreams," Sutherland said. "We're ready and waiting here at GCC to help adult students turn those dreams into a reality."