(Jill Bock, Staff)
After a nine-year journey filled with night college classes and online courses and working a full-time job, the Lilbourn woman was one of over 1,300 students to receive a degree during Southeast Missouri State University's commencement Saturday.
"It's been a long road, and I've enjoyed it," Nunnery said.
Nunnery, who has been married for more than 25 years and is the mother of two sons, carried a full course load to obtain her Bachelor of Science in education with a major in exceptional child education.
Watching her daughter graduate Saturday was the best Mother's Day gift she could receive, said Gail Alley of Marston.
"All of the family is so happy and proud. She has put her all into this. She set a goal for herself, and she did it," said Alley.
Nunnery also became the first person on both sides of her family to graduate from a four-year university.
"We always told her: Do the best you can, and you can do whatever you set your mind to as long as you believe you can do it," Alley said of her daughter. "This is what she wanted and she loves working with kids. Kids seem to like her, and she knows how to deal with them."
Nunnery said she decided to give one college course a try since it had been 17 years since she'd graduated from high school.
"I started out planning on getting my associate's degree and worked at school as a personal aide and then an assistant aide at New Madrid County Central High school," Nunnery recalled.
She eventually moved to the New Madrid County Central Middle School, where she currently works as an assistant aide.
"The kids she works with at school, she tells them: 'I'm going to school and learning just like you're learning.' She's encouraged her students, and that's what it's all about it -- helping others," Alley said.
Nunnery said she decided she liked working with special education students, and decided to pursue a bachelor's degree.
Nunnery was quick to point out she's not the only mother to earn a college degree. She's met several mothers who were also college students.
"A lot of them had younger kids than me and juggled jobs and baby sitters and daycares. It's hard on mothers -- working moms especially -- when you're trying to work and go to college and take care of your family. You feel guilty when you have to skip some of the family time to get a few things done for school," Nunnery said.
And sometimes Nunnery would wait until the last minute to do homework because she didn't want to miss something, she said.
"There were a lot of times I was almost in tears because I was just exhausted," Nunnery recalled.
But on Saturday, any tears from Nunnery or her family members were tears of joy.
"Do I sound like a happy momma?" Alley asked as she talked about her daughter's accomplishment.
"To get to watch her walk across the stage and get that diploma and get those awards she's going to get -- there's probably going be a lot of tears," Alley said prior to Saturday's commencement. "That's OK. I don't care."
Knowing she would have her degree, Nunnery has applied for various special education teaching positions throughout the R-1 District and is awaiting to hear the school board's decision, she said.
"This is just something she needed, we needed, and now she's finished," Alley said of her daughter's college degree. "Now she can pass on what she's learned to her students."
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