CCC graduate keeps promise to sister

CCC graduate Julie Drinkard graduated from Northern Arizona University on May 14. She has already landed a job as a social worker for Catholic Charities in Flagstaff and thanks her sister for her success. For a video of Drinkard's experience, visit CCC's YouTube page here.


FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Her sister made her promise back in 2008 to at least give college a try.

“So, I promised her,” said Julie Drinkard. “That was my last conversation with her. She died four days later.”

Drinkard’s sister died of complications associated with leukemia. Drinkard had been a bone-marrow donor to her sister, and she was cancer free for a time before she died in 2008.

“I’d never been to college,” Drinkard said, adding that she started a family right out of high school and had a good career going for her. “I needed to fulfill the promise.”

In 2011, she showed up at Coconino Community College and started off with the basics.

“I absolutely loved it and decided school wasn’t so bad,” Drinkard said.

Not only did she graduate from CCC in 2014 with an associate’s degree in General Studies, she graduated from Northern Arizona University on May 14 with a bachelor’s degree in social work. Additionally, she’s already found a job in Flagstaff, working to help people find housing.

She works for Catholic Charities, a social service agency that offers assistance to people in need of housing.

“Here I am, giving back,” Drinkard said. “All because of my sister.”

Before college, Drinkard had a good-paying job for a local Mom & Pop business. She left that job to fulfill her sister’s promise. She was full of doubt. She raised three children and has five grandchildren.

“My daughter told me, ‘Age is nothing but a number,’” Drinkard said, laughing.

When Drinkard showed up at CCC, she said the staff and faculty made her feel at home right away. She found great mentors in former Dean of Arts and Sciences Ingrid Lee, and English Faculty Jeremy Martin.

“I left that day, and I felt that this was where I was supposed to be,” Drinkard added. “I really excelled here. It became my home.”

Because she was a first-generation college student, she received tutoring assistance through the TRiO program. She then went into the CCC2NAU program, and her experience with helping her sister gave her the idea that being of service was the direction she wanted to take and focused on a degree in Social Work.

Because she was selected as an All-Arizona Academic Team member, she received a tuition waiver to attend NAU. And now she has a new job, and it’s in Flagstaff.

“I feel so blessed to be able to say here,” Drinkard said. “I’ve been here since 1968. My Mom’s still here. To uproot – I wouldn’t have been able to.”

“It’s not about the money for me,” Drinkard said of her new job with Catholic Charities. “It’s about helping to make a difference in someone else’s life. I want to go to bed at night knowing I’ve made that difference.”

Drinkard added that things happen the way they do for a reason. She’s not sure what her path would have been if she had tried to go to college straight out of high school, or if she had attended NAU first.

“CCC was just perfect for me,” she said.

During the graduation ceremony at NAU, Drinkard’s cap featured a photo of her and her sister. Also on the cap, she pasted the words, “As promised, sister.”

“She completely changed my life even though she wasn’t here anymore,” Drinkard said. “I wish she would be here to see it, but I know she’ll be with me.”

For a video of Drinkard's experience, visit CCC's YouTube page here.


Tuesday, 17th May 2016

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  • Tuesday, 17th May 2016