As a nontraditional student and mother of six children, attending Newman University was no small feat for Patti Rolf.
But this past December, she earned her first college degree: a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education.
“This is very surreal for me,” Rolf said. “For me personally, it’s a lot to juggle, which makes it all the more such a proud achievement and very worth it.”
Rolf was also nominated for Newman’s prestigious Ablah Awards, which are given to one male and one female recipient each year. It’s a nomination she was deeply honored and surprised to receive, especially because she was an outreach student.
Lifelong relationships built remotely
Rolf took classes through Newman’s College of Education Outreach Program, which she also served as a peer mentor for. Her courses were all done through Zoom, but even so, she felt she built great relationships with her cohort of 50 other students.
“Our experience was different than so many others that are here today,” she said. “We still formed our own band of sisterhood and brotherhood. We’re still a family that was on Zoom two to three nights a week, every week, and we made it work.”
Rolf added, “Just because our experience at Newman looks different than others, it doesn’t mean that we don’t carry the same love and respect for Newman and what you’re supposed to carry on into society.”
Jessica Bird, interim dean of the School of Education and Social Work, felt that Rolf was an outstanding student throughout her time in Newman’s outreach program.
“Patti’s dedication to the profession is seen in all that she does,” Bird said. “She went above and beyond in her work, practicums and student teaching. Patti stood out from the first time I met her. It was beyond amazing to see her true calling come to fruition. I believe Patti will continue to make a difference in the lives of many and will transform society through her work as an educator.”
Excitedly entering the classroom
For Rolf, earning a college degree also means a lot to her six kids, who are ages 6 through 20, and saw their mom work hard for something she was passionate about.
“They sacrificed right along with me, because my presence wasn’t like it was, but it’s something that they were totally in my corner and cheering me on,” she said.
This fall, Rolf will put her degree to work as she starts her fifth-grade teaching job at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School in Wichita — the same school she student-taught in.
And when asked why she wanted to attend college as an adult student with six children, Rolf responds that the cliché answer is because it’s all she’s ever wanted to do, but life has thrown her curveballs along the way.
“What sent me now to do it after all these years,” she explained, “is that my last child was born with special needs, and I just owe it to all of the teachers who pour into her every day.”
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