Crawl, walk, run to success: GED graduate Donahue takes one step at a time

Published by Jazmin Ode on

(Left) Jessica Donohue, winner of the National Adult Education Honor Society Award, and Emma Donohue, her youngest daughter, color together. Jessica went to Emma’s school for Muffins and Mom’s Day.
Photo provided by Jessica Donohue

One of the UCC graduates walking across the stage on June 16 is Jessica Donohue, winner of the National Adult Education Honor Society Award. She is graduating with her GED and is excited to start her college learning career soon at UCC.

The journey to get her GED was strenuous. “I am a mother of four. I have four daughters, and I dropped out of school in 10th grade. I wasn’t really hanging out with the best crowd. But then I met my kids’ father when I was 22,” Donohue says. “I think like three years later we had our first daughter, and we ended up having four daughters which is crazy because I didn’t even want kids when I was younger. Having a family, it’s been the best job in the world. But I knew, I always knew, that I wanted to go back to school.”

Jessica Donohue, winner of the National Adult Education Honor Society Award, poses with her husband, Thomas Donohue and her four daughters (Eldest to youngest), Bella, Mia, Taylor and Emma Donohue. Even with everything on her plate, she works hard and is able to get her GED despite what others have said.
Photo provided by Jessica Donohue

When Donohue’s first child became more independent, she decided to try to go back to school. She went to the Woolley Center for help. “The first three months, I had passed pretty much a test each month. I would study and then go take the test. But then my oldest daughter got really sick with chronic severe ulcerative colitis,” Donohue says. “We practically lived in the hospital for three to six months, and so our whole world just kind of got put on pause.”

“My (eldest) daughter had five blood transfusions and she had like five iron transfusions, and she had a port in her arm, so she didn’t eat by mouth for two months in a row,” Donohue says. “She went from 120-something pounds to 98 pounds; at one point, I really didn’t know if I was going to take her home, that was so scary being a mom.”

Through this difficult time, Donohue says she had to just trust God and her faith. “I just remember just telling God ‘She’s your child. You know? I’ve been blessed to be her mom and whatever your will is for her life, God.’” Donohue says. “I just have to lay it down and give it to God. It was the next day she just started fighting for her life; she was ready to quit and give up, and it was like the scariest thing I think I’ve ever had to do.”

Her community and faith helped her through this hard time. Doing little things like helping take the other three kids to their after-school activities or little words of encouragement. “I just had Angel helping me along the way. My community totally outpoured support and brought meals and offered to give the other kids rides to their sporting stuff.” The compassion she felt when her eldest got sick she explains as “a village of people that just rallied around us, even strangers; it was amazing.”

Donohue had to take a break from school for six months. When she was finally able to go back, math courses became the next obstacle in her way. “Math is the one that always gets me, you know, so I’d saved that for last, and when I actually went and took my test, I failed by one. I had to go back and take it again.”

Through these struggles, not everyone was supportive of Donohue’s educational goals. Donohue faced many detractors who didn’t believe that she would stay in school. “A lot of people thought I was just going to quit along the way because of all my setbacks, but I worked hard on things. All I wanted to do was be able to go to college,” Donohue says. “I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to go to college. So, I did it! Now I’m in college, and stuff is just so good in my life.”

Donohue says that her grandma was also a huge inspiration. “She had seven kids, and her oldest daughter took care of the younger daughters so she could go back to school, and she got her bachelor’s and her master’s degree,” Donohue says. “I kept thinking the whole time I was going through that if my grandma could go back to school and get her bachelor’s and get her master’s with seven kids, I can do this.”

Donahue wants to pursue a career in nursing. “I’d like to be a traveling RN nurse. I’d like to get the associate’s and then get that bachelor’s degree,” Donohue says.

Donohue gives advice to other parents who are perusing a degree: “We’re always going to be busy, and there’s always going to be excuses that we can make, but just believe in yourself, and you can never have too big of a dream,” Donohue says. “If you have goals you want to reach, as long as you’re consistent, just keep doing the baby steps. Eventually, you’ll look back and be like, ‘Oh my gosh, look at what I’ve accomplished’. And that’s kind of how I’m doing it, just one step at a time.”

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