Graduate Flies from Louisiana to Ashland to Attend Commencement
Kristen Haley Theriot of Baton Rouge, La., flew more than 1,000 miles one-way from Louisiana to Ashland, Ohio, in order to receive her Associate of Arts degree as part of Ashland University’s Winter Commencement ceremony on Dec. 15.
“To say earning a degree through Ashland was a goal, would be cutting the credit in half. It’s more than a degree, it surpasses any dream that I had for myself. Earning my G.E.D. was a dream, but to travel more than 1,000 miles and walk across the Ashland stage is like getting married or the birth of a child,” said Theriot, who took online classes while she was in prison in Louisiana.
Theriot was 26 years old when she began her educational journey. After obtaining her G.E.D at Ascension Parish Prison and a diploma in Upholstery Technology and a National Construction Center Education and Research certification through Baton Rouge Community College, she worked for almost two years to get her Associate’s Degree in General Studies through Ashland University.
“My entire five years of imprisonment consisted of education and struggles,” she said. “This moment for me is more than an opportunity to be recognized for my degree. This is the moment that breaks a cycle for the next generation. It’s the day I display strength, perseverance, long-suffering and hope for my five children, my heart, my family, my friends, my supporters, those who encouraged and prayed even those who discouraged and never believed in me. They now have the chance to see a miracle, change and growth. And they are able to witness me going from cursed to blessed. This is the moment where Christ shows His strength in all my weaknesses.”
Theriot said that Ashland University has given her an entire life of opportunity, a new perspective and understanding in every aspect of her life.
“Things such as growth in myself, the ability to communicate effectively, openly and honestly. It has given me strength, courage, long-suffering and it has taught me the value and rewards of commitment,” she said. “I use the knowledge Ashland gave me in my everyday life, and I share what Ashland gave me – hope.”
Theriot described her favorite aspects of the Ashland educational experience as being the knowledge she received, the online tablets used in the educational process, and the people who genuinely believed in her. “Though I was the one taking the courses, I built a family of friends who refused to let me give up. And I experienced the communication and connection with people who are there simply because they care,” she said.
Now that Theriot has her Associate’s Degree, she plans to start working toward earning her Bachelor’s Degree. “I live in Baton Rouge, La., and am in a one-year program called Connections for Life designed to help me rebuild my life,” she said.
“The struggles have been many, but my long-suffering and my ability to commit are stronger than ever because of what Ashland has provided me with – tools,” she said. “I am taking this one step at a time. I would like to help other individuals like myself, especially parents that are in and outside of prison fighting for their children and who need someone to believe in them as well as being a voice of reason and hope.”