A goal deferred, but not denied
Amid the hundreds of University of Houston-Downtown graduates who received their diplomas May 12 at Minute Maid Park was Leslie Dodson, who didn’t appear to have accomplished anything extraordinary until the Tomball resident’s backstory unfolds.
Dodson received her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at age 39 while working a full-time job, raising a family, and driving 100 miles roundtrip daily to work and school. This wasn’t her original plan for higher education.
After graduating from high school in 1990, Dodson received a full, four-year scholarship to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with an eye on one day going to law school to become an attorney.
But the freedom that comes with living on her own for the first time proved too intoxicating for Dodson.
“Even as I was drinking my way through college during my first college experience, it didn’t occur to me that I wouldn't get my bachelor’s degree,” says Dodson, who dropped out of college during her third year.
Then, life took its course. Marriage, children -- five in all ranging in ages from 2 to 17 -- and a full-time job with the U.S. Postal Service seemed to all but bury Dodson’s dream of earning her bachelor’s.
But the flickering embers of higher education continued to smolder inside Dodson amid those years of work, raising children and attending all their after-school events.
Dodson relocated with her husband, Nick (who also works for the U.S. Postal Service), and their children from Las Vegas to Houston in 2008 after Nick received a promotion.
Dodson enrolled at Lone Star Community College in 2009 and later transferred to UHD, all of which launched her juggling act of work, raising children, attending their after-school events, attending college lectures and studying into the early-morning hours.
Dodson says she maintained that hectic life because she wanted to be a living example to her children of someone who walks the talk.
“I thought it was hypocritical for me to preach education to my children when I didn’t have one,” she says. “I also wanted them to see that even if you make a mistake or stumble, you can get yourself back on track.”
There’s still ample dash and determination left in Dodson. She plans to earn a master’s degree and then enter law school.
ABOUT LESLIE DODSON
OCCUPATION: U.S. Postal Service manager
CONNECTION: Tomball resident
FAST FACT: Dodson commuted 100 miles round trip each day from her home in Tomball north of Houston to attend the University of Houston-Downtown campus and work a full-time job while raising five children and maintaining a 4.0 grade point average.
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a freelance writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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