A divorced Brainerd mother has kept her five sons first while achieving near-perfect grades and receiving a $12,000 scholarship on her way to a future in accounting.
Jody Northenscold received her associate in applied science degree from Central Lakes College after nearly five years as a student mom who also worked outside the home.
"I celebrated my sons. They helped me get there," she said after graduating with high honors from the community and technical college where she found new goals.
"I hadn't expected graduation to be a big deal to me," she said. "I didn't go to my high school graduation. But as I sat there for the CLC graduation, I realized I needed to celebrate those who helped me, so I was cheering for them, not for me."
"My priority has been kids, school and work. Now it's going to be kids, work and school." -- Jody Northenscold, CLC graduate
Northenscold, 42, said she is at a new stage on the road toward a four-year accounting or finance degree, perhaps through Southwest State University courses offered on the Brainerd campus of CLC.
"My priority has been kids, school and work. Now it's going to be kids, work and school."
The 1978 Richfield High School graduate said she was a stay-at-home mom for 20 years.
"Going to college was quite an adjustment," she admitted. Starting with summer courses, she discovered she could do just fine by relaxing and soaking up the knowledge. She aced her first five courses, gained confidence and listened well.
One thing she heard was the announcement of a scholarship opportunity.
Jeff Wig, accounting instructor, announced that the American Society of Women Accountants offered $4,000 per year to eligible students across the country. It was a long shot, Northenscold thought. But she applied.
And she won. Not only did the national organization award her the scholarship, the group invited her to speak to its national conference in Seattle, Wash.
The 600 women in the audience gave her a rousing welcome and standing ovation. She was only the second woman to receive this award.
The reception went to her heart. She didn't let it go to her head.
She wanted to set a good example for her sons, two of whom are in their 20s and in college. With three of her five sons living at home, Northenscold kept her priority there. Her CLC instructors knew where she was coming from.
She had been motivated by supportive agents in the college community, including the Displaced Homemaker program and instructors such as Wig, Don Goode, Jan Bedard, Roger Pickering and Vicky Knickerbocker.
"My teachers at CLC want me to continue with college. I will. I plan to get a four-year degree, but now I won't be going full time," she said of her plan to continue with accounting work outside of home but taking one or two courses at a time. "Southwest State has a three-year rotation, so I will try to fit into that cycle," she said.
She used some of the scholarship money to buy a computer. Some of it went toward maintaining the essential automobile to help her run sons to athletic practice and other extracurricular functions, as well as keeping herself on time for classes and work.
"My sons have sacrificed a lot. I want to be sure I spend whatever time I can with them," she said. Two of the boys are pre-teens who have spent part of their early years in day care and whose social lives are soon to blossom.
Wherever this scholar works, the boss understands Northenscold sets the hours. "During finals week, they (Dean's Auto Parts) let me just do payroll, nothing else, so I could prepare for tests."
Since graduation from CLC, she has returned to other aspects of "life that had been on hold," as she puts it. Example: She washed the kitchen floor. "The other night I spent a half hour on it," she said with a laugh. "It's just dirty again. Sometimes, you do what you have to do. The rest waits."
Even after 20 years, good things have come to one who waited ... and wanted.
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