Sometimes things happen in particular ways that cause wholly unintended outcomes.
Like how a cancer diagnosis, changing paths and winding school schedules can lead to an unlikely happenstance: a mother and daughter graduating college on the exact same day, just hours apart.
For Terra Gamache and her 21-year-old daughter Alyssa, that’s not the plot of a fiction novel. It’s real life – an end to a years-long journey for both and perhaps the start of something else entirely. Like a new career. Or a future degree and a budding business.
“It’s exciting,” said Terra, who’s graduating from Spokane Community College on Friday, June 17.
“Exciting to be done,” said Alyssa, who is graduating from Spokane Falls Community College earlier that day.
What’s next is anyone’s guess. For Terra, it’s likely a continuation in her career path after earning a two-year degree as an administrative assistant. This spring, she worked for 12 weeks as an intern and work study in the Community Colleges of Spokane Information Technology department.
For much of Terra’s life, school was in the periphery. As a stay-at-home mom to two children – Alyssa and an 11-year-old boy – she decided to focus on family. Then four years ago, she had an itch: the children are old enough, so why not get back into the workforce?
She enrolled at SCC in a year-long program and things were going well for a while, but she wasn’t convinced it was a forever plan. In early 2019, she met with a counselor who recommended a curveball: a two-year business degree.
So she went for it. But as everyone knows, the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans. Compounding problems was a 2021 breast cancer diagnosis that delayed schoolwork entirely.
Today, treatment is going well, and it wasn’t long before Terra was back on her feet and into a classroom.
After college, she hopes to use the skills she learned doing clerical work at one of the many employers in the Spokane area on the hunt for skilled staffers.
Her daughter Alyssa, on the other hand, is a bit unsure.
“I still don’t know what I want to do,” she said. “But I’m really interested in the business world.”
Alyssa is graduating with a general associate degree and plans to either attend Eastern Washington University or Glen Dow Academy for cosmetology.
Either way, the goal is to one day open her own salon in Spokane.
As for Terra, she wouldn’t mind a career picking up where she left off in her internship. Perhaps at a K-12 school or another college.
“That’s one of the things I liked about my program,” she said. ”You can take those skills and use them anywhere.”