Returning to school as an adult has its share of challenges, but they’re much more manageable when you have a friend by your side.
Carrie Vergin and Kari Nuszkiewicz first met when their oldest children—now 19—became friends in the sixth grade. They remained friendly over the years and eventually joined the same church. In 2011, they became classmates in the MSCJ program. And this past summer, they both graduated.
Carrie was already an MSCJ student specializing in restorative justice when Kari asked her to recommend a program that would fit into her life.
“In 2009, I was a victim of domestic violence. I was forced to utilize local services available for victims and their children and found myself with a new appreciation for those involved,” Kari said. “I always wanted to do something that involved children and realized that by obtaining my graduate degree in criminal justice, I would be better prepared with the knowledge to keep myself and my youngest daughter safe, but would also extend that effort to all victims and all children.”
Carrie encouraged her friend to pursue her interest in child advocacy and victimology, and the next semester she enrolled.
“It was actually after I began the program that we became good friends and sources of support for one another,” Kari said. “We were there to encourage each other, share textbooks, and bounce ideas off of each other. It was wonderful to have Kari on board in the program—she helped keep me motivated,” Carrie said.
Cheryl Banachowski-Fuller, director of the MSCJ program said, “Kari was a superb graduate. While completing her degree, Kari earned the Child Advocacy Studies (CAST) certificate. Her academic performance, while juggling family and work responsibilities, to include her volunteer work with victims of abuse in Wausau, was superior. Kari is also the recipient of the 2012 Dawn Drake Excellence in Distance Education Scholarship. ”
Carrie’s efforts stood out as well. “Her ability to maintain high academic performance throughout the program, while managing family responsibilities, to include her successful leadership accomplishments as Coordinator of the Marathon County Restorative Justice Program, was extraordinary,” Cheryl said.
Carrie, a programs and services team leader at Goodwill, is also teaching at a local technical college. “It was very difficult, I will admit. My family life suffered, but I am hoping that my boys will grow to understand the importance of education.”
Kari was also motivated to set a good example for her children. “I am proud that through diligence and determination, I was able to complete the master’s program in just over one year. Personally, I was able to take a very tragic and serious issue—domestic violence—and turn it into something very positive and empowering.” She plans to continue her work with child and victim advocacy and eventually pursue her doctorate and someday teach.
Now their oldest children are both in college pursuing their own degrees. As for their friendship, Carrie said, “We will remain very close friends and encourage each other in our careers.”
Kari agrees. “We will definitely continue to be close friends and support each other. I am thankful that our friendship was an additional benefit of the MSCJ program.”