Grandma's back in school at 72

SANDUSKY Alberta McLaughlin's just like any other college student -- except for the fact she has sev
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

Alberta McLaughlin's just like any other college student -- except for the fact she has seven great-grandchildren.

McLaughlin, 72, is working on her second degree at Ohio Business College and externing at the Erie County Health Department.

"I'm the oldest one at the college," she said, laughing. "I'm even older than the teachers."

After earning an associate degree in business in the early 1980s, McLaughlin took a break but found she couldn't stay away.

"My high school class was the last class to graduate downtown," she said. "I waited a while after I graduated and went back to school. I got my degree in business in 1983, when (Ohio Business College) first opened over by the mall plaza," she said.

She went back to school a couple of years ago and will graduate in June with a medical assistant degree.

But two degrees are not enough to make McLaughlin part from her beloved school.

"I'm coming back in June," she said. "I'm going to take financing classes."

She said many people have asked why going back to school would appeal to the mother of five, grandmother of 16 and great-grandmother of seven.

"Some of them can't believe it," she said. "But I was just baby-sitting. Baby-sitting and sitting at home watching TV. I thought, 'I can go back to school,' and that's what I did."

McLaughlin's not sure what she wants to do afterward or if she'll satisfy her craving for knowledge any time soon.

"I guess I'll find a job," she said.

Ohio Business College Career Service coordinator Tarina Oglesby has followed McLaughlin's progress and said she's been an "inspiration" to everyone, especially to older individuals who are unsure about coming back.

"Our average age at the college is between 29 to 34," she said. "But with all the downsizing in this area, we're getting a lot of older students, dislocated workers. Alberta has been an inspiration. When admissions has people coming in, many of them will say, 'Oh, I'm to old to go back to school,' but, after seeing Alberta, they have no excuse."

In completing her last hurdles to obtain the medical assistant degree, McLaughlin was welcomed as an extern at the health department.

Given her own desk in the corner of the clinic, she greets the patients, points them in the right direction and handles filing and information packets.

"She's been a blessing," clinic supervisor Shari Greene said. "She does all of the clerical functions, paper management. We have a huge amount of paper that comes through here. She's been a huge support for us. She's of that generation that really values strong core values and responsibility toward her job. She sees and treats it as a job, even though she's volunteering."

"I enjoy it," McLaughlin said.

"She enjoys it because she gets to do what she likes the most -- being around all these people," Oglesby said. "Our goal with the externships is to make the student so useful the employer doesn't want them to leave."

It hasn't all been smooth sailing. McLaughlin admitted she's struggled, but thanks to dedicated teachers, she's pulled though.

"All those computer classes," she said shaking her head. "All the technology is new to me. But I like that the teachers are very helpful."

While preparing to head back to work after a brief visit, McLaughlin was given a special flower bouquet in honor of Administrative Assistant's Day.

"Oh my dear," she said, blue eyes shining. "Thank you so very much."

"Thank you," Greene said. "For all the work you do."