Johanna and Brandon Howard were in their mid-30s when they were hit with what they call their “a-ha moment.”
The couple’s oldest child, Jordan, was whizzing through high school with sky-high marks and, though he was just in his freshman year, already was thinking about college. Or, at least, his parents were thinking about it for him, which is when Jordan dropped a little nugget of wisdom that went something like this:
“Neither of you went to college,” Jordan asked Johanna and Brandon. “Why should I?”
It’s not as though Johanna and Brandon were slackers. Quite the opposite, in fact. Both joined the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from high school and worked hard every day juggling military service, civilian jobs and raising five children.
Still, something in Jordan’s question stuck with the couple.
“We decided we wanted to set the example,” Johanna said.
Last January, Johanna and Brandon, both 36, full-time working parents of five children, started college. They enrolled in Avila University’s Advantage program, seeking bachelor of science degrees in business administration.
While the Howards said location and logistics were a big reason in why they chose Avila – their home and places of work all are within a few miles of the University – they also pointed to the counsel they received from Admissions Advisor Rachel Robinson as being instrumental in getting them started.
“Rachel in the Advantage office was fantastic,” Johanna said. “She made us feel really comfortable and confident that we could do this.”
Brandon said Avila also received a strong recommendation from one of his veteran buddies, Mike Sanchez, who’s working on his teaching certification through Advantage.
“What’s also great about the Advantage program is that you’re in with people your own age,” Brandon said.
Both Howards, who originally met during their first military assignments in Camp Johnson, N.C., are paying their tuition through the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
“My first day of class … I hadn’t been in class in 18 years, and I was nervous,” Brandon said. “Not nervous, really, but scared. I contemplated not going. But the instructors were great. They take the time to explain everything.”
Johanna added, “Even our online instructors give us their email addresses and are glad to help any time.”
Johanna even said she recently signed up for Advantage’s new Mentoring Project because “I wanted to make sure others had the same help we received.”
The Howards are scheduled to graduate in May 2015.
Both said they’d someday like to assume their managers’ positions at their current places of employment. Brandon said he has even bigger plans.
“I want to someday own a restaurant,” he said. “I’ve already learned a lot I didn’t know about running a business.”
And, what about Jordan, the son whose question started all this? Now a sophomore at Belton High School, he’s already taking three college-level courses and, next year, will take courses at Northwest Missouri State University.
“You always have time to go to school,” Johanna said. “We’re both full-time students, we have five children and work full-time. You just have to make that time for something so important.”
Media Contact: Bob Luder, 816.501.2434