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Wise Beyond Their Peers

Photo by Pauletta Tohonnie
Photo by Pauletta Tohonnie

Photo by Pauletta Tohonnie From mom to business-owner, Lora is now a student sharing a college experience with her daughter.
Photo by Pauletta Tohonnie

Although they may be a minority group on campus, middle-aged students like Lora Hale-Vance want to make a name for themselves just as much as their younger peers.

Mother of three and proud new grandmother, Hale-Vance is currently a ceramics sophomore at ASU

“I read two books about following your passion and manifesting your destiny and I just thought when I was a kid I wanted to be a fashion designer, I wanted to be in the art world," Hale- Vance says. "I just went with it and started taking art class."

Besides being a student, Hale-Vance is self-employed and runs her own massage-therapy business. Massage therapy allows her to have flexible hours to schedule her classes around.

“I've had a life goal of wanting to get a degree and never pursued it outside the massage business, so I started taking classes,” said Hale-Vance.

At 43, Hale-Vance is having a unique college experience as she shares it with her daughter who is also a ceramics major.

“To watch what my daughter is doing is blowing me away because she has so much ability and I am kind of envious of that, she has her whole life ahead of her. I'm 43 so I really have to bust my butt to make a name for myself,” Hale-Vance says.

Hale-Vance said it works well being able to talk student-to-student with her daughter, ceramics sophomore Emily Rowe, and save money sharing textbooks.

“There were a lot of things my daughter learned in high school that I didn't know yet, it's different in college,” Hale-Vance says. “They don't teach you how to grind clay…I had to go out and learn how to do things myself.”

Hale-Vance said a lot of her friends are about 15 years younger. Because of this, she feels normal being in class with younger students.

“It is easy for me because I relate to my kids very well,” she says. “I accept people for who they are and where they are.”

English professor Rosemarie Dombrowski shared that having older students in class brings a different dynamic in a very positive way.

“I had an older student in my freshman composition class who had such a wonderful insight into life," Dombrowski says. "She was very nurturing towards the other students…more so than me sometimes."

Dombrowski had many conversations peer-to-peer with her older student.

“It was maybe one of the most unique experiences I've had,” Dombrowski says.

Like many older students, this isn't the first time Hale-Vance has taken college courses.

After high school, Hale-Vance received a president scholarship that included full tuition at Glendale Community College.

While attending GCC, she took rigorous courses and was uncertain on where she wanted to go with school. This aspect and an unsettling marriage caused her to ultimately drop out.

“It was the biggest mistake I've ever made…ever ever,” she said.

In 1997, Hale-Vance left her husband and two years later started going to massage school.

“Massage school was one of the best decisions I ever made," she says. "It really made me realize that I needed to go through that and have the marriage I had so I could have my daughters. It was where I was meant to be so I just have to go with it and keep going forward towards my goals.”

Hale-Vance has had many life experiences that have led her to where she is today. Once doing administrative work, she lost her full-time job, which then propelled her to pursue massage work.

For a year and a half, Hale-Vance lived in a trailer with electricity but no air-conditioning.

“It was a different life, but I was so happy. I was making $8.15 an hour and I never looked at it like I was poor, “ Hale-Vance says. “Even if you are living on a small budget you'll be happy if you are doing what you love.”

Beyond ceramics, Hale-Vance draws, paints and hopes to take class in metals and creative writing. Hale-Vance expressed that she is looking forward to continuing to learn as that is one of her favorite things to do.

“If I had stood around and waited for the opportunity to come to me I wouldn't be here, “ Hale-Vance says. “You have to make the opportunity, if it is important you will make time for it.”

Reach the writer at or on Twitter @napier_m

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