Graduate gives back to others (video)

Sarah Waters discusses her path to graduation from Victoria College
  • IF YOU GO

  • • WHAT: Victoria College spring 2013 commencement ceremony

    • WHERE: Victoria Fine Arts Center, 1002 Sam Houston Drive

    • WHEN: 10 a.m. Saturday

    • FOR MORE INFORMATION: visit victoriacollege.edu.

Sarah Waters recalled a day not that long ago when, panicked, she rushed inside the Victoria College KEY Center. The semester's end was around the corner, and with it came her first round of college finals.

"I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to study," said Waters, who was 34 at the time. "One of the counselors spent two hours writing on the board, working with me and teaching me what to do. She hadn't even taken the class, but she worked off my notes."

The scholar has come a long way since those first-final jitters, however, and an important milestone is just up ahead.

On Saturday, Waters will graduate from Victoria College with her associate degree in psychology.

The path to a diploma wasn't always an easy one.

The Houston-area native came up against obstacles after a few wrong turns in life. Although she didn't offer further detail, she said she found herself facing more than a rough patch.

"Left to my own thinking, I wound up in some bad situations," she said.

Still, she pushed forward.

Waters got involved with Perpetual Help Home, a housing program for women, where she worked at the organization's Center for Peace.

The center is a social enterprise, like a business, which offers women experience working in a business setting, said Cheryl Miller, Perpetual Help Home's executive director.

There, Waters oversaw ministries, Miller said, and even created some new ones.

One such ministry was "Making it Right."

Through the ministry, Waters said she and others raised funds for people in low-income neighborhoods who experienced robberies and the like and needed money to get back on their feet.

She also got involved in endeavors with agencies such as the district attorney's office and Victoria County Sheriff's Office, she said, and traveled to area churches, telling her story and encouraging others to persevere.

"I want to give back to my community," she said. "I want to right the wrongs of my past."

Miller described the soon-to-be graduate as "a joy to work around."

"She's just got so much to offer. She's so full of life," Miller said. "With the things she's gone through in life, and all that she's overcome to be where she is today, it's very inspirational."

Waters' decision to enroll at Victoria College took some soul searching.

Although she said she wanted to complete the education she'd started years before at Texas Woman's University, she said she feared the stigma that might come to a 34-year-old woman in a class of teens.

"But my teachers accepted me with open arms," she explained. "I said to myself, 'Yeah. I can do this.' Even at an older age, you always have the ability to learn more."

Much of Waters' support came from the KEY Center, a program which, according to its website, is aimed at encouraging intellectual growth and development and fostering academic success to students in unique situations.

Center director Renee Deaver described Waters as a determined individual who still took advice and opinions to stay on track.

"She impacted us as well. That's the beauty of our job," Deaver said. "Whenever we see the obstacles our students overcome, we think, 'If they can do it, we can to it.' It's very rewarding."

Waters' journey with Victoria College might be at its end, but she said the lessons learned and friendships made will stay with her.

She said she plans to continue on toward a bachelor's degree from the University of Houston-Victoria - she already has about 100 credits under her belt - and then on to a master's degree.

Her goal is to become a licensed chemical dependence counselor.

Waters has one more upcoming milestone, too. On Jan. 11, she will marry her fiance, Henry Holland.

She credited her success to God, encouragement from those around her and to her own perseverance.

It wasn't always easy, and at times she wanted to quit, she said. But that willingness to keep moving forward made all the difference.

She encouraged others to do the same.

"Never, never never give up. It's what Winston Churchill said, and it's my favorite quote," Waters advised. "You've got to keep persevering. Keep going."