When she was laid off after spending 14 years writing for the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, Kristin Platts decided to finish what she’d started.
That meant transferring to Stanislaus State 16 years after completing her associate degree at Modesto Junior College and earning a Stanislaus State Bachelor of Arts in the newly created Creative Media in May.
“Being an older student in a sea of young people was initially terrifying, but embracing challenges and opportunities as they came made the entire experience here even more worthwhile,” Platts said.
She found a home with the school’s newspaper, The Signal, as a writer and most recently, as the Senior Editor. While learning all the new tools of today’s journalism, she found herself serving as a mentor to new writers.
The journey from 40-year-old transfer student to college graduate has not been an easy one.
In addition to returning to classes, projects, late-night study sessions and writing papers, Platts, recently divorced, is a single mom and 4-H parent volunteer.
Her best friend died in March, 2022, and this year, on April 28, 10 months after he was diagnosed with the aggressive glioblastoma brain cancer, her father died.
“Having lost my only sibling, my older brother, Brian, in 2012, I’ve known for years that taking care of my parents in their older years would ultimately be my responsibility one day,” Platts said.
She just didn’t know that day would come as she was navigating her duties as a single mom and college student preparing to graduate.
While her dad seemed to be beating the odds, her mom took a turn and had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital with what would be diagnosed as a very painful bout of sciatica, a pain, weakness or numbing in the leg caused by pressure or injury to the sciatic nerve.
The episode shook Platts, who was taking a heavy load of classes in her final semester.
“I’ve been called strong, resilient, brave, a badass, but by the second week of April, I was facing my most difficult set of challenges yet, and I found myself struggling to find the strength that so many others saw in me,” she said.
The night her mom was wheeled out to an ambulance, a firefighter on scene saw the panicked look in Platts’ face as her mom was giving her instructions that went with the big bag of medications that she’d need to give her dad while her mom was gone.
“It was then that it hit me,” Platts said. “I could be losing not one, but both of my parents soon. The firefighter wanted to make sure I had people to support me, and his compassion and concern meant so much in that moment.”
Platt’s mom returned home the same evening, but a week later, she again called 9-1-1, because her father had fallen in the middle of the night and suffered two compression fractures on his spine.
After a week at the hospital, he was moved into a nursing home, but his condition had declined so much that the family chose to control his pain and return him home with hospice care.
He passed away there, surrounded by his family and beloved cat.
Friends and faculty, Platts said, supported her through those challenging days, with professors giving her time to complete her work to enable her to graduate.
“All my parents have wanted since I went back to school is to see me graduate,” said Platts, who, like about 73 percent of Stan State students, is a first-generation college student. “Even though my dad is gone now, I know he (was) there with me as I (crossed) the stage.”
It didn’t take long after her graduation for Platts to begin her second professional career. She is a contributing writer for West Coast Nut Magazine and is also doing some work for the Riverbank News, her hometown weekly newspaper.
Her time as a student at Stan State has prepared her to meet the demands of her career and her life.
“As students, caretakers, parents, partners, friends, we each face a multitude of challenges,” Platts said. “Some of us don’t have enough to eat. Others lack housing. Some of us suffer from mental health issues or feel marginalized or attacked for our sexual identity or the color of our skin.
“One word has come to mind more often than any other as I’ve gone through the trials and tribulations of my time as an older college student, and it applies at any age and to any circumstance, is ‘grace.’
“I have given myself grace. Grace to make mistakes, grace to understand that I’m only human, and grace to see myself as powerful, even when I feel helpless.”
Platts walked through graduation, she said, “with a sense of peace that is hard to describe and wholly just another part of my personal journey.”
She looks toward a bright future.
“None of us knows what lies ahead, but I know whatever comes, I’m ready for it,” Platts said.
This story is a product of the Stanislaus State Office of Communications and Public Affairs. It originally appeared as part of a series on 2023 graduates.
Lori Gilbert writes for the Stanislaus State Office of Communications and Public Affairs. She has worked at the University since 2019. Prior to that, she spent 39 years in the newspaper industry, the last 34 at The Record in Stockton. She was a sportswriter/columnist for 23 years and spent the last 11 writing features.