Graduation means new beginnings to former JH-er

(Casper, Wyo.) - This Thursday, 21 years after Anna George walked into her first class of higher education, she will graduate with a bachelor of social work through the University of Wyoming at Casper (UW-Casper). While the road was long and winding, her resilience has paid off well. “I was raised in a restrictive household where women were not valued,” said George. “I was expected to obey my father and then my husband, and education was never an option.” Against her family’s beliefs, George earned her GED at the age of 17. She began an associate’s degree in music performance in 1995, but completed a general studies program instead. Soon after, she moved to Jackson Hole, where she worked three jobs. When she returned to Casper, her family situation deteriorated further. Feeling as though she had no alternative, George married to escape the pressure placed upon her. “When we divorced, I began to live in these toxic social environments,” explained George. “I was using negative relationships with others to self-medicate.” Through counseling, George said she figured out how to take a bad hand of cards and learn to play it. She worked to reject many of her family’s beliefs with which she had been raised. She returned to school, where her classes became therapeutic, helping her to build her self-esteem and providing an outlet toward which she could channel her energy. She earned her associate’s in accounting in 2008. Now George is married to her loving, supportive husband, Jim, and graduating with a bachelor of social work. Her goal is to eventually open her own counseling practice, where she can assist others with women’s and cultural issues. She recently applied for the master’s degree program in mental health through UW-Casper, the revived graduate counseling education cohort that will begin this fall, and will interview with program instructors in late May. “Graduating this week is a starting point,” said George. “I’m still writing my ending. Accumulating graduate school debt is scary, but I’ve done scary before.” George is one of 87 individuals walking in UW-Casper’s commencement ceremony this week. Students have earned degrees in organizational leadership, biology, communication, criminal justice, English, mathematics and sciences, psychology, social sciences, business administration, secondary science education, technical education, elementary education, nursing, and social work. UW-Casper commencement is Thursday, May 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the Casper Events Center. The event is free and open to the public. *Feature Photo: Anna George. h/t University of Wyoming at Casper /