Sisters Refuse To Settle For Small Dreams

Three Siblings Graduate Together From Central Methodist University On May 15

May 21, 2019

By MAGGIE GEBHARDT / mgebhardt@centralmethodist.edu

Heather, Kayla, and JacklynThe bond between sisters is often resilient – serving as a source of strength when feeling weak, comfort during life’s toughest moments, and encouragement when afraid to take a leap of faith.

For the Straisinger sisters, this has always been true. Even when life got messy; even when it seemed impossible, it has been that bond that has seen them through – and it is that bond that led them to a pivotal, special moment they were all able to share together.

On Wednesday, May 15, Jacklyn Straisinger, Kayla (Straisinger) Decker, and Heather Straisinger experienced pride in not only themselves, but one another, as they heard their names announced as graduates at Central Methodist University’s Western Region Commencement on the State Fair Community College (SFCC) Sedalia campus.

Central partners with SFCC to offer fully-accredited degree completion programs at the SFCC campus in Clinton, and after the sisters received their associate degrees from SFCC, they decided to keep chasing their dreams – encouraging one another to keep going.

Jacklyn and Kayla began taking classes through CMU in 2016, with their younger sister, Heather, starting the following fall. Because Heather had accumulated so many credits already, she found herself right on track to graduate with her older sisters. Together, they reached the finish line – all at the exact same time.

Jacklyn, the oldest of the three, and Kayla, the second oldest, are both mothers, and remaining motivated to keep going wasn’t easy.

“It took a little while to figure out if we could juggle it all,” Jacklyn said. “But after Kayla decided to transfer to CMU, she inspired me to go for my biggest dream instead of settling for a smaller one. We then encouraged Heather to do the same.”

Jacklyn said she first chose CMU because of the convenience of receiving her degree in Clinton through CMU’s College of Graduate and Extended Studies (CGES). And after she started classes, she kept choosing CMU – remaining there because of her positive experiences.

“I was able to take all my classes online and the staff was wonderful,” she said. “They encouraged me when I felt like I was stuck, and showed me that even though I am a single mom doing it on my own, it is still possible.”

Kayla had big dreams of her own, and with the reinforcement of her sisters, realized she could reach them through CMU’s criminal justice program. A victim of domestic abuse, she found that her passion was with other women who were struggling to get out of violent relationships, and also with those who had the strength to get out, but felt lost or guilty after doing so.

“I want to be able to help women,” she said. “I would like to become a victim’s advocate for battered women.”

Central provided the right options for Heather, too, who longs for a career that allows her to help people. She majored in psychology.

“Being a counselor and being able to help people work through struggles in their lives is very important to me,” the youngest of the three said.

Heather said her sisters attending CMU did influence her decision, however, there were plenty of other reasons. She is expecting her first child – a son.

“CMU had the major I wanted, the online classes worked best for me, and the staff is wonderful, helpful, and friendly,” she said. “If it were not for CMU, I am not sure I would have been able to continue my education to get my psychology degree.”

Heather said it is in an incredible feeling to be able to share such a huge milestone with her older sisters – two people who have been there for her through everything.
Jacklyn agreed as she reflected on her relationship with her younger sisters.

“I honestly don’t think I could have made it to this point without them,” she said. “We are each other’s support team, sounding board, shoulder to cry on, and cheerleaders. It is amazing for us to be able to share and celebrate this accomplishment.”