Twenty-three years ago, Elena Mulholland earned her associate degree in medical laboratory technology from Lorain County Community College.
On May 14 this year, her youngest daughter, Rosie, 20, crossed the stage at LCCC’s 52nd Commencement ceremony to earn two degrees – an associate of arts and an associate of science. Last year, Rosie’s older sister, Katie, 22, earned an associate of arts degree.
To say LCCC runs in the Mulholland family is an understatement. The family, which includes Elena and her husband, Brian, as well as daughters Rosie and Katie, has a connection to the college to goes well beyond the classroom and degrees.
In 1988, Elena left her home in Mexico and moved to Lorain. Her father had worked at U.S. Steel in Lorain for years, while her mother split time between Ohio and Mexico, where Elena and her nine brothers and sisters grew up. Elena only spoke Spanish when she moved to Lorain, but that didn’t stop her from enrolling in college courses at LCCC.
“They didn’t have English as a Second Language (ESL) courses back then, so I took regular classes and tried to learn as much English as I could,” Elena recalled.
It was hard. She didn’t understand a lot of what her classmates were saying and often worried they were laughing at her. She cried in the bathroom on more than one occasion, but she was determined. Her professors noticed her dedication and reached out.
“I had a professor, Kevin Hoskinson, who called me outside after class. He could tell I was struggling and he offered let me come to his office hours a few times a week to go over assignments and practice my English,” Elena said.
Hoskinson remembers Elena’s tenacious spirit during those classes, more than two decades ago.
“What she may have lacked in her early mastery of English she more than made up for in effort and seriousness of purpose,” Hoskinson said. “I recall that on the first day of the quarter, she arrived early, took the very front seat of the center row, and sat there every day for the entire quarter. She was a quiet student, but there was intensity behind her eyes every day that let me know she was very serious about her learning and fully dedicated to succeeding.”
Through hard work and the support of her professors and tutors, Elena earned an associate degree in laboratory technology in 1993. In addition to picking up a degree, Elena also fell in love. Her English tutor, Clare Mullholland, thought Elena would hit it off with Clare’s brother, Brian. Elena arranged their first date: a mass at Sacred Heart Chapel in Lorain.
“My sister talked with Elena’s family after mass so that I could chat with Elena one on one. It was like a lightning bolt hit me. I was in love,” Brian recalled.
The couple married in 1992 and moved to Amherst not long after. Katie was born in 1994 and Rosie was born in 1996.
By the time Rosie and Katie attended high school at Amherst Steele, LCCC classes were integrated into the high school building. So, before they even graduated high school, Rosie and Katie had both earned college credit. When it came time to decide what to do after high school, the choice was easy, Rosie said.
“Coming to LCCC always felt right. I visited other schools but I always knew that LCCC was where I was meant to be,” Rosie said.
Katie agreed. And even though LCCC is a family tradition, there was never any pressure, she said.
“Our parents told us that we could go anywhere and do anything. LCCC was the best choice for us,” Katie said.
On the way to earning their degrees, Rosie and Katie leaned on the support of academic advisers and counselors. Adviser Cynthia Arredondo and counselor Jason Gibson helped the Mulhollands decide a major and stay on track to graduation.
“Cynthia and Jason took the time to really talk with me and help me to decide what I wanted to do. They checked in to make sure I was doing okay and to talk about my options,” Rosie said.
Rosie and Katie plan to continue their education beyond associate degrees. Rosie will continue for a nursing degree. Katie wants to earn a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and is taking some additional LCCC courses in preparation to transfer to a four-year university, possibly through LCCC’s University Partnership program with Ashland University. She’s already done a job shadowing where she visited her mom, Elena, on the job as a paraprofessional in the English Language Learners program (ELL) at Lorain City Schools. Elena has worked at Lorain schools for seven years and recently won accolades from the State of Ohio for the program’s service to English language learners.
“I was able to shadow at the school and see the impact my mom makes every day,” Katie said. “Knowing how hard my mom worked to learn English when she came here, it was awesome to see her on the other side of things, now helping kids learn to speak English.”
LCCC has been such an integral part of the Muholland’s lives that Brian was inspired to create a work of art in honor of the retirement of LCCC President Roy A. Church, who is retiring on June 30 after nearly 30 years as president of the college.
Brian, who retired after 25 years as an advertising artist for The Plain Dealer, is an artist in various mediums, including caricatures. To thank Church for his commitment to Lorain County, Brian drew a humorous portrait of Church enjoying retirement as a fisherman. The work even includes the joke “What kind of bait does a retired college president use for fishing?” The answer: “Bookworms … of course!”
Brian and his family presented the artwork to Church recently to a great review.
“This is just wonderful,” said Church, with a laugh as he held the drawing. He said he planned to display the artwork in his home office.
One family’s endless connections to the college are the epitome of what Lorain County Community College was founded to do, Church said.
“The Mulhollands are a great example of what the College is all about, “Church said. “The College touches the lives of so many people and gives them the opportunity to work hard and move forward in their lives.”
Following the meeting with Church, Katie and Rosie boarded a plane to spend the summer in a study abroad program at the University of Guanajuato in Mexico. The pair planned to visit with family and spend the summer immersed in Spanish culture.
“I’m so proud of them,” Brian said. “LCCC has prepared them for this adventure and for so much more in their future.”