09:05 AM

OPPD Employee Completes Bachelor’s Degree Journey

OPPD Employee Completes Bachelor’s Degree Journey

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

Kathleen DeLeon set a goal for herself back in 2001. There were more than a few obstacles along to the way, but she crossed the finished line by earning her bachelor’s degree in business in 2015.

DeLeon, a Family Medical Leave Assistant at Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), had to take long stretches away from school to become the primary caregiver first for her father and later for her mother as she battled cancer.

“We took my Mom straight to my house from the hospital where I then became her full time caregiver with my kids,” DeLeon explained.

Her ex-husband and the father of her children also became ill at this time, which added yet another diversion to DeLeon’s quest.  Kathleen now had to carve out additional time to ensure her children were able to spend valuable time with their ailing father.  “Not only was I a care giver for my mom, I became a single parent…. that was a very heavy load when you go from having a great man/father there and then, one day, he is gone.”

“I did continue going to school,” DeLeon said. “I was almost finished and ready to move on to the Kirkpatrick Series and then around end of November 2009 my mom’s cancer started progressing and I had to put my schooling on hold. This was very upsetting to her because she was so supportive during this time and hated to see me stop.”

After her mother passed away in 2010, going back to school was not DeLeon’s first priority, but she had promised her she would earn her degree. Encouragement from her colleagues helped motivate her to finish as well.

DeLeon“I had colleagues, my manager and mentors ask me numerous times ‘when are you going back to school? You are almost finished’,” she said.

DeLeon praised Professor Rick McFayden for keeping her engaged.

“He was an awesome instructor and I would recommend him to others,” DeLeon said. “He made our learning fun and interesting and that to me is what I needed during this time.”

DeLeon’s first inclination was to skip the graduation ceremony since her mother could not be there, but encouragement from her children helped change her mind. When she saw that the commencement ceremony was on the fifth anniversary of her mother’s passing that sealed the deal.  “This was definitely a sign from her that she has been with me during this time and will be there with me on Commencement Day,” DeLeon said.  In addition, DeLeon was able to share this moment with her cousin and his wife, Marcus and Emily Jensen, also 2015 Bellevue University graduates.

DeLeon now wants to relay her experience to others to let them know that obstacles can be overcome.

“I really want to get more involved with young ladies or single mothers that feel they can’t go back to school  and let them know once you put your mind to it and regardless of your obstacles you can always reach your Dreams!” she said.