Kaila Koons first came to Centralia College after receiving an associate degree in accounting from a for-profit college, and found that she had been misled into thinking that her degree would transfer as she pursued a bachelor degree, that wasn’t the case. Though some credits did transfer, she lost about 25 percent of them, putting her further behind and deeper in debt with student loans, but that didn’t stop her.
“I was really frustrated at first,” Kaila explained. “I had worked so hard, and they had made promises that just weren’t true. But I couldn’t let that stop me, so I transferred what I could, and spent the next year taking classes I needed to earn an accredited associate degree before entering the Bachelor of Applied Science in Applied Management (BAS-AM) degree program at Centralia College.”
Kaila also took advantage of the student worker program at the college, taking a position in the financial aid department. Over time she’s worked her way up, earning multiple promotions, and the respect of her coworkers and supervisors along the way.
“Kaila always strives to do better and looks for opportunities to make a difference, not only for students but for her coworkers,” Director of Financial Aid Tracy Dahl said. “We have had the unique opportunity to see her complete her associate and now her bachelor’s degrees while balancing motherhood and work. She always brings her best to work, and many times has contributed to new processes to make work better and efficient. She brings joy to the office and always, always smiles no matter what the situation is. She is the sunshine we all look forward to.”
In addition to being a single mom of two, Kaila had several challenges that could have derailed her education at any time. Instead, she worked even harder. Her first year in the BAS-AM program, her landlord lost the apartment she was living in to foreclosure, giving her four days to move without a place to live. Two weeks later, her car broke down and was beyond repair. And, during fall quarter of her final year, she gave birth to her third child. Not missing a beat, she returned to class in less than a week. In addition, she had exhausted much of her financial aid at her previous school, leaving her without a way to pay for her final quarter. Fortunately for Kaila, she had worked hard, earning a scholarship from Timber Services through the Centralia College Foundation. Kaila also had a lot of help from a very supportive family, from lodging, to financial help, to childcare, they made sure she had what she needed while striving to reach her goals.
Though the pursuit of her education has been a long and bumpy road, Kaila has now reached her goal, and is graduating from Centralia College with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Applied Management (BAS-AM) degree. She has now begun searching for administration positions and, with her experience in the financial aid department, she’s keeping an eye out for jobs in higher education.
“I couldn’t have done it without help from my family and the support I received from the college,” Kaila said. “Many times I could have thrown in the towel, but my family rallied around me, making sure I had what I needed to succeed. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have made it. And I couldn’t be more grateful to the college, especially the friends I’ve made in the financial aid and student services departments. They’ve made my time at Centralia College much more special.”