05/09/10 — Husband and wife graduate together from Mount Olive College

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Husband and wife graduate together from Mount Olive College

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on May 9, 2010 1:50 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Justin and Juli Balch have already shared some big moments together in their first year of marriage, and Saturday the couple will mark another special occasion as they both graduate from Mount Olive College.

The couple met at a bible study group while Justin Balch was stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. Juli, the daughter of a missionary minister from Georgia, and Balch, a California native, dated through their years in the Mount Olive College psychology program and continued pursuing their bachelor's degrees after marrying in June 2009.

Balch always wanted to earn a college degree, and joined the Air Force in part because of the service's college benefits. After leaving active duty and going into the reserves, he spent several years working with a Goldsboro-area ministry before deciding to turn his full attention to getting a degree at the Mount Olive-based college's Seymour Johnson satellite location.

Mrs. Balch, who also attended the college's satellite campus, said that it was challenging for her to return to college after taking a few years off. Starting a life together with her husband in the middle of working full-time and going to school to earn her bachelor's degree took careful prioritizing.

"It was pretty difficult to juggle life, school, and work in the beginning. Just about the time I started to get into the swing of things, Justin and I got married and we had to relearn how to manage our time," she said.

As psychology majors, the couple took many of the same classes together while going through the program. They had the chance to work on projects together, study together and support each other. Balch went into the reserves after serving four years as an active duty airman, and Mrs. Balch was working full-time while going to school. It was a big adjustment for both of them, but the challenges helped to make them stronger.

"That gave us an opportunity not only to learn together but to grow closer together," Balch said.

They both would not hesitate to tell other non-traditional students thinking of continuing their education to jump in with gusto.

"Education opens doors and provides opportunity which otherwise may never present itself. Sacrifice a little now to reap big rewards later," he said.

And the experience of struggling through so many major life changes in such a short time has, in a way, helped the couple grow closer together as they completed college.

"Over the course of the past three years we have been able to learn together, grow together, and truly become best friends. Sharing my education with Justin has made the whole experience richer and has benefited us both," Mrs. Balch said.

The Balchs are in the process of relocating to Colorado to attend graduate school, and they both hope to use their degrees to combine their expertise and their faith into a powerful tool to help others.

"We are so excited about the next phase of our lives. Our hope is to one day partner in ministry helping people with marriage, family and life," Balch said.

And although they will miss their friends, family and time spent at Mount Olive College, they are ready for whatever comes next.

"You go to school to get trained and qualified and the next phase is to go out there and do it. We're excited about what God has in store for us," Balch said.