Insistent, assertive, hard-hitting: whatever you call it, Tracy Turner drew an uncompromising line when it came to the education of her two youngest children. Now she is gradating alongside both, as well as her daughter’s fiance, this May from Gila Community College.
In a small graduating class, the Turners are certainly the only family graduating all at once. And more certainly, there wasn’t a parent more actively involved in her children’s education.
For years, Tracy home-schooled Cody Turner, 19, and Kelsey Turner, 17. When they entered GCC several years ago, Tracy decided it was a good time to pursue her own associates degree, especially since she would have a lot of free time once her children were gone.
Cody and Kelsey will begin their undergraduate degrees later this year, away from their mother for the first time, so they won’t have anyone to remind them to complete their homework or study for a test. But you can bet, Tracy won’t be more than a call away.
On May 11, Cody will receive his associate degree in business administration from GCC and Kelsey, a general studies associate degree. Meanwhile, Kelsey’s fiance, Kyden Jordan, 20, will also collect a general studies associate degree. All three are planning to continue their education at Northern Arizona University.
Tracy is applying her associate of applied science degree in business to a new job in office administration at a local church.
“I did it because I knew they were leaving and my whole life was wrapped up in them,” Tracy said of her decision to enroll at GCC.
Not wanting to sit around, Tracy checked her bucket list and remembered she had always wanted to complete her degree.
“I think it is awesome,” Kelsey said of her mother’s graduation. “It is pretty inspiring at her age to come back to school.”
Tracy said she always felt her children were accelerated learners. When Kelsey was in third grade and Cody in seventh, they decided to withdraw from public school so Tracy could teach them at their own speed. With the freedom to explore whatever interested them, Cody and Kelsey excelled.
Outside of the walls of a high school, Tracy said her children skipped the pressures of trying to fit in with a clique.
“It gave them the freedom to be more of who they are,” she said.
Cody explored the world of computers and Kelsey photography.
Although she had never taught before, Tracy threw herself into teaching.
Using her organizational skills, Tracy designed a well-balanced teaching system.
“I made sure they got whatever they needed so they could be successful,” she said. “I took it upon myself to learn the books and guide them through it.”
Tracy’s husband, Robert Turner, helped with math instruction.
By the time Cody graduated, he was helping his dad learn math.
For Kelsey, learning came easy and she enrolled in GCC classes at age 14.
For Kelsey’s fiance, school wasn’t always as straightforward.
When Kelsey started dating Kyden, a Payson High School graduate, he did not have dreams of attending college.
“I was planning on going into the service,” he said.
But Kyden’s plans were changed and his world turned upside down when Tracy pushed him to consider furthering his education.
An average student in high school, Kyden did well in math and science, but never considered any path beyond the military.
After a little prodding, Kyden enrolled at GCC.
“We encouraged him, we pushed him and he wasn’t used to it — someone telling him what to do,” Tracy said.
At 16, Kyden had left home and virtually raised himself. He had never had anyone take such an interest in his life, much less a whole family.
With a world of possibilities to choose from, Kyden explored law enforcement, mechanics and engineering. Kyden settled on studying engineering at NAU with plans to go into alternative energy after graduation.
Kyden and Kayla will marry this summer before they head off to NAU.
Kayla plans to study photography in college.
“I always loved taking pictures and I am good at it,” she said.
Cody was not as sure of what he would like to do and flip-flopped between associate degrees. He finally settled on business administration with plans to study computer sciences in college.
All three received Pell grants and have scholarships for college.
It is a coincidence that all four are graduating this May from GCC.
Tracy said she never planned when they would graduate, it all worked out on its own.
One thing she did plan, however, was that they would graduate.