May 24, 2016
Mother and Daughter Graduate in Class of 2016 at SUNY Empire State College’s Capital District region
As a shift supervisor for a fast-food chain, a chance meeting at the drive-through window brought SUNY Empire State College graduate Sandra Barkevich ’13, ’16 her greatest cheerleader, her husband, Keith, who was a customer that day. He has been the wind at her back in finding success pursuing higher education. The 42-year-old Amsterdam, N.Y. native and mother of Amelia,15, and Jonas, 13, held a string of customer service jobs over the years. However, no matter how good she was, any path to advancement was blocked by lack of college completion. After she married, she was spurred on by Keith, who encouraged her to set her sights higher – first by finding a better job, but also by enrolling in SUNY Empire State College. She, in turn, encouraged her mother, Migdalia Crego, 63, deputy compact administrator for the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, to pursue her own dreams of higher education.
Both mother and daughter are members of the Class of 2016 and will walk at SUNY Empire State College’s 44th Commencement, 11 a.m., Saturday, June 11, at the Empire State Plaza. Barkevich has earned a Master of Arts in Learning and Emerging Technologies, while her mother, Crego, also from Amsterdam, has earned her Associate in Science in Community and Human Services. Crego and two of her five siblings are the first generation to complete college degrees, with her sister holding a master’s degree and teaching in the New York City area. Her brother has found success with a degree in computer technology. He facilitates trainings nationally. Crego married at 18, however, “and life got in the way,” she says. “When I attempted to attend a community college, once again I was forced to discontinue attendance because my position with the state consumed so much time.”
In the past six years, Barkevich earned her associate and bachelor’s degrees in Business, Management and Economics, as well as her master’s, from the college. Because of its focus on helping adults get credit for what they have learned in order to complete a degree, she was able to bring in 26 credits from community college courses and 61 credits from her customer service experience. She also collected notable awards, including the 2014 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence; selection to serve on the OPEN SUNY committee as the college’s student representative; and, as someone of partially Spanish and Puerto Rican descent, selection as one of 2013 NY’s 40 under 40 Rising Stars by the Hispanic Coalition. She was the second editor for The Student Connection, an online newsletter for SUNY Empire students. Barkevich was the student representative who spoke at the inauguration of Empire State College President Merodie Hancock. She also received a Student Services Award from the college in 2015 that recognized her volunteer work as a student, as well as being one of the student speakers at the college’s Center for Distance Learning graduation.
Barkevich’s mother is on the cusp of retirement, and was able to find success at her job without a degree by working hard. But partly to set an example for her two grandchildren, she determined to complete her degree. She studied with Mentor Diana Hawkins and was able to bring in 32 prior learning assessment credits. She, too, has received honors at the college, including being selected as a 2014 Bahr Scholar – named for CWA President Emeritus Morton Bahr, and having artwork displayed in the Creative Corner of The Student Connection. Of Barkevich, she says, “She encouraged me to follow in her footsteps.” Barkevich recalls telling her, “Mom, you need to do it; you can do it and graduate the same year with your associate degree as I do with my master’s.”
As with many older adults, the technology used in the online courses proved challenging to Crego at first. With Barkevich’s encouragement, she was able to adapt. Her experience though, was the seed for Barkevich’s master’s project, in which she designed the first module for a creative writing workshop, using integrated learning theory. The multimedia application is designed so that people who are not technology savvy can learn easily.