Lois Duke, a Luray resident, has grown academically and personally since she enrolled at Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC) in 2005.
Duke, 33, is graduating from LFCC with an associate degree in science. While attending LFCC, she has maintained a 3.97 Grade Point Average (GPA) and juggled school and family responsibilities, including caring for her brother who has cerebral palsy.
"Family is very important to me, and school is next," Duke said. "One of my greatest achievements in life is coming as far as I have while being a family caregiver. Most people do not understand the kind of dedication it takes to be a family caregiver. I'm really proud that I can keep my brother at home, instead of putting him in an institution."
Despite her demanding schedule, Duke is involved in several activities both on and off campus, including serving as the vice president of the Alpha Beta Omega Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) at the Middletown Campus and the vice president of the LFCC Scientific Society.
"When I first came to LFCC, I was very introverted and shy. As an adult student, I was scared about coming back to school, even though I had always been a good student," Duke said. "However, the more that I got involved in school activities, the more I felt like I was a part of LFCC and the more my confidence grew."
One class in particular helped her to decide on her future career goals. During her first semester at LFCC, Duke took an anatomy and physiology class from Ann Simpson, an instructor in biology/anatomy and physiology. "Professor Simpson encouraged me to pursue my goal of becoming a teacher. And, since she had returned to school as an adult, she could relate to my experience," Duke said. "She helped me to come out of my shell and to learn how to interact with people and speak in public."
After taking the anatomy and physiology class, Duke realized that she had a passion for science. Through other classes, including two technical writing courses taught by professor Brent Kendrick, she rekindled her love of writing and is combining both her love of science and writing as she continues her education.
"Without Dr. Kendrick's mentorship as a teacher and PTK advisor, I would not have
received many of my awards or be speaking at Commencement! He has always challenged and encouraged me to excel in all things," Duke said.
Duke plans to enroll at James Madison University in spring 2009 and double major in biology and technical and scientific communications. Duke will be taking the fall 2008 semester off to have her and her husband's first baby. "We are very excited! It is a busy time," she said.
Upon completing her bachelor's degrees, Duke hopes to pursue a master's degree and eventually teach at the community college level.
Because of her academic achievements and community service, Duke has received various awards and honors, including LFCC's Outstanding Graduate in English Award and the Dr. Beulah McGovern Award - Outstanding Achievement in Science. She was also named to PTK's 2008 All-Virginia Academic Team and the First Virginia Team.
"I'm definitely going to miss LFCC and the faculty at the College," Duke said.