Jobs and Hard Work Pay Off
Woman to Receive
Two Degrees From U.Va. on May 20
4, 2001-- Bus driver. Activist. Teacher. Karen C.
Waters knows persistence and hard work. It has finally paid off
for the 37 year old, who, 20 years after her first attempt, will
receive her bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in
teaching from the University of Virginia on May 20.
make ends meet while at U.Va., Waters worked multiple jobs, but
never let family responsibilities interfere with her academic work.
The first in her immediate family to graduate from college, she
has a 3.8 GPA. Her husband, Samuel, also will receive a U.Va. degree
this month, a doctorate in microbiology. And daughter Kelsey is
an honor student in the second grade at Venable Elementary School,
where Waters has done volunteer work. In addition to volunteering
in several area schools, she has been involved in more than a dozen
been absolutely wonderful and involved in an incredible variety
of activities related to life at U.Va. as well as in the community
as a whole," said Eleanor Wilson, assistant professor of education
in U.Va.'s Curry School
of Education. Wilson taught Waters as part of the Piedmont Virginia
Community College/U.Va. teaching fellows program.
credits her educational success to supportive teacher, such as Wilson,
and to flexible jobs. One such job included a stint as a Jaunt bus
driver for elderly and disabled residents on weekends and nights.
For safety reasons, Waters donned boyish-looking attire during night
shifts as she and her sleeping daughter traveled the city, urban
ring and surrounding counties.
is not afraid to stand up for her rights. Although rental fees were
waived while she was president of U.Va.'s Housing Association at
Copeley Hill, Waters took on the U.Va.
to get lead-based paint removed from their buildings. U.Va.'s Office
of the Executive Vice President intervened, and the lead-abatement
project was successful.
20-hour-a-week Copeley job eventually led to a position representing
State Sen. Emily Couric at forums and meetings, among other things.
Waters' job with Couric ended after the senator withdrew from the
race for lieutenant governor last summer.
many nontraditional U.Va. students, Waters was hesitant about returning
to school because she hadn't done well during a previous attempt
at college in 1980. While working at Monticello Area Community Action
Agency (MACAA) in Charlottesville, colleagues encouraged her to
enroll at Piedmont Virginia Community College. PVCC Professor Pryor
Hale took Waters by the hand, introduced her the school's president,
and once she took that first leap, it was as if she'd had been hiding
her light under a basket.
can attract people to her view and, at the same time, bring them
along with her view," Hale said. "Once she started school she began
and fellow PVCC transfer student Colleen Higgins were part of the
Philip Morris Teaching Partnership program, a collaborative effort
between U.Va. and PVCC to train teachers through U.Va.'s five-year
master's in teaching program. For her efforts, Waters received U.Va.'s
Outstanding Master of Teaching Award in April.
represents and epitomizes the best of our future teachers," Wilson
said. "From the time she began classes, she extended herself in
a variety of quiet yet significant ways to help and mentor other
working at U.Va.'s Carter G. Woodson Institute for African and Afro-American
Studies, Waters renewed her interest in history. Recently, she received
the Albemarle County Historical Society's Rawlings Prize, an annual
award that honors outstanding essays on local history. The paper
was her senior thesis on residential segregation in Charlottesville
in the early 20th century.
a child Waters lived in public housing. That memory stirred her
interest in community involvement. Beginning in 1997 Waters became
an advocate for tenants in low-income neighborhoods.
it took her 20 years to earn an undergraduate degree, it has been
an invaluable experience. "It 's never too late to get an education,"
she said. "Just because you can't see the light at the end of the
tunnel doesn't mean you shouldn't go down it. I am still very much
a work in progress and believe my best still lies ahead."
graduation Waters plans to use her community organization skills
and her educational background in an administrative position for
a non-profit in the Charlottesville area.
Katherine Jackson, (804) 924-3629