06/11/11 — Mother proves it is never too late

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Mother proves it is never too late

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 11, 2011 11:43 PM

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Crystal Cogdell with daughters Andrea McFarland, Heaven Walker and Ashley McFarland

Crystal Cogdell has come a long way -- from being a drug addict to an honor graduate.

But she is just as proud of the fact that three of her daughters are also graduates this spring.

Ms. Cogdell, of Dudley, obtained her associate degree from Wayne Community College last month, where 22-year-old daughter Andrea McFarland also earned her degree as a certified nursing assistant and will pursue her nursing studies in the fall.

Two other daughters have earned high school diplomas -- Heaven Walker, 19, graduated from Goldsboro High on Saturday, and Ashley McFarland, 17, will receive her diploma Tuesday night from Southern Wayne.

Heaven plans to go into the Air Force, her mother said, while Ashley will pursue a nursing degree from N.C. Central University.

Preparing for three commencements was eventful, to say the least.

"Oh, man, it was difficult because two of them have children, two little boys. While (my daughters) were in school, I had to watch them," Ms. Cogdell said. "It was real difficult because I had to study.

"I wanted to take the load off of them because I know how it is to have children and not be able to finish school."

If anyone understands what it means to reach such a goal, it's Ms. Cogdell.

"I didn't get my high school diploma until I was 38," she said. "From 38 until now -- I'm 44 years old -- I have graduated with an associate degree and it's 45 (credit) hours until I can get my bachelor's in criminal justice and psychology."

Being out of school for so many years, she admits there were times she doubted she would accomplish such lofty goals.

"It didn't dawn on me until January, 'Oh, my goodness, all of us graduating this year,'" she said from her home on Thursday. "I'm about to cry. I'm sitting here looking at pictures, when they were 12 and 10 and 6."

The mother of eight -- five daughters and one son, as well as two sons who passed away -- said she treasures her family and appreciates how they have all grown up and carved out their own lives.

Like many parents, she tries not to dwell on regrets and instead concentrates on the positives. She will readily say she is not proud of some of the decisions she made in her own youth and remains very thankful that her children did not follow the same path.

"It's just amazing that I came from the life I came from and my daughters are not on drugs, they're not on the streets," she said. "They made it and they graduated and they're still pursuing the right things, a great education and a good job.

"That just makes me proud as a mother."

Once she completes her own education, Ms. Cogdell aspires to be a peer support specialist, working with substance abuse and mental health clients.

"I'm happy about that, too," she said. "I'm going to be able to give back my community and to people in general. Because I had people to help me -- my church, my pastor, Frank Dawson -- if it weren't for God and him, I don't know where I'd be."