Close to 700 students graduated from the Charlotte campus of the University of Phoenix on Saturday. The university caters to nontraditional students by providing flexible schedules and online courses. Students like John Patterson juggle full-time jobs, family obligations and their school work.
"Why go back to school? To better myself, to better my education to actually advance me in the future," Patterson said.
His graduation marks a culmination of two and a half years of sacrifice and many more years of struggle. At 47, Patterson fulfilled a dream and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in business management from the University of Phoenix.
"I have to give up a lot, from seeing my family. Give up a lot on sleep," he said.
For him, everyday was a balancing act, juggling a full time job, school, being a pastor, monitoring his diabetes and providing for his seven children.
"There were times when he did get tired," explained wife Twana Patterson. "I pressed him to make it."
With Twana by his side, they shared the responsibility with the hope that in the end, their hard work would eventually pay off.
For 24 years, Patterson has worked for the U.S. Postal Service. Now with his Bachelors degree he hopes to become a postmaster or station manager.
"I’m hoping someone will say well hey if this man can do all of this we know what kind of employee we’ll have," he said.
Until then, it’s his children that are taking notice of his hard work.
"It’s like my daddy did it. He went to the [University of] Phoenix," Twana said of the example her husband is setting for their children. "When I graduate I want to go to college and pursue this and do that because I see it in my dad."
After growing up in poverty, battling illness and making sacrifices John Patterson’s graduation day finally came.
"I’m overwhelmed. I’m just like wow this is happening," said Twana.
For his family it means John has overcome and now the opportunities are endless.
"You never know what the future holds," Patterson said.He plans to re-enroll in the University of Phoenix and immediately begin pursuing his Master’s degree.