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Keeping it all in the family: Grandmother and granddaughter graduating together from BCTC in May

BCTC Marcella TulsaLEXINGTON, Ky. (May 2, 2016) One thing that you notice when you meet Marcella Reynolds and Tulsa Owens-Buffin, is the family resemblance. They are grandmother and granddaughter to each other, with a distinct look in their eyes and a determined drive in their spirits.

"We didn't plan on attending college at the same time," said Reynolds, "but it just sort of worked out that way. And what a journey its been."

Wanting a change of pace from standing on her feet for hours at a manufacturing job, Marcella Reynolds decided she needed to do something different in life, so she submitted her transcripts to Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) and began her journey to achieve the dream of a college education.

Having never attended college before, and in the prime of her life, she found it challenging to come back to school after such a long period of time. "I graduated high school in 1976," said Reynolds. "So, it's going to be 40 years now when I graduate from college this May. How about that!"

Reynolds, who is from Lawrenceburg, found herself juggling a hectic schedule of school, working 40-60 hours a week, and finding the time to deal with everyday life issues. But eventually, she found a balance, and the hard work will pay off with her earning an associate degree. "I took two classes a semester," said the Information Technology major. One of her main goals was to keep her grade point average up, and she'll be graduating with 3.4 GPA.

At first, Reynolds said she thought she'd go to work for the state, but when her employer found out she was earning a degree, they offered her a position as a Safety Team Lead. "I have worked for Greenheck Fan Corporation, located in Frankfort, for 20 years in July," said Reynolds.

Reynold's granddaughter, Tulsa Owens-Buffin, who is from Versailles, is also graduating with an associate degree in Surgical Technology in May, with a 3.8 GPA. "Surgical technicians prepare operating rooms for surgery and maintain sterile instruments," said Owens-Buffin. She started in the fall of 2011 and like her grandmother she took two classes a semester and worked full-time. But after delivering a baby, she was fortunate to become a stay-at-home mom and devoted full-time to her studies.

Owens-Buffin now has two kids, Savannah and Peyton, who are one and five years old. It has been a challenge to juggle responsibilities of motherhood with clinicals and studies but she sees the end reward. She will still have three more weeks of clinicals after graduation to take the Surgical Technician Certification Exam, but will walk through the graduation ceremony in May and as an added accomplishment, she has been named Outstanding Graduate of the BCTC Surgical Technology Program.

For the future, Tulsa has accepted a position as a surgical technician with Good Samaritan Hospital in Lexington. "The great thing about the Surgical Technician program at BCTC is they have a 100% passing rate and a 100% placement rate. Everyone I'm graduating with has accepted positions."

Reynolds and Owens-Buffin didn't know they would be graduating together until two months ago when they were discussing it, and realized their terms of study would be over at the same time.

Both of them have been a rock to the other during their time at BCTC. Owens-Buffin helped Reynolds with her math classes, and Reynolds helped Owens-Buffin with keeping up with administrative events and tasks, such as graduation emails.

Owens-Buffin is happy that graduation is on Mothers Day, and she couldn't think of a better present than that. "My kids are really excited about coming to graduation," she said. "In fact, one of them said they are going to grow up and come to BCTC one day."

Reynolds, who's from a family of eight girls and three boys, said she's excited about being the only one of her siblings to graduate college. "I thought at least one of us should graduate from college, and it looks like it's going to happen with me," said Reynolds.

Both had mentors at BCTC who they credit with helping them achieve their goals. "James Kolasa, a professor in the Computer and Information Technologies department, has been a tremendous help with me because he always kept me positive about reaching my goals and dreams," said Reynolds. She also gives credit to her daughter who earned a computer programming degree from Sullivan University. "She pushed me to go and keep positive on what I was wanting to do."

Owens-Buffin also praises BCTC Surgical Technician Coordinator, Kevin Craycraft. "He got me through the program, encouraging me to make the best grades I could, even counseling that I re-take classes in order to improve my GPA. He's a great instructor, and showed he really cared about my future success. He's great at promoting the program."

Both plan on attending the BCTC graduation ceremony May 8 in Frankfort, and they'll be bringing their children and grandchildren, extending the family affair to future generations.

Photo caption: Grandmother and granddaughter, Marcella Reynolds and Tulsa Owens-Buffin, will be graduating together from BCTC on May 8, 2016