Mother and daughter share being inductees to PTK, an international honor society

When Lorita (Lori) Cassell of Freeport decided to return to school two years ago, she knew she would attend Highland Community College, and to draw on inspiration, she had to look no further than her daughter, Hope. Both have spent this past year attending classes at Highland. Lori is a 2016 graduate, but what the two share is being inductees to the HCC's chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) international honors society. 

PTK is the official honor society for two-year colleges and is the largest honor society in American higher education. To be eligible for membership, a student must complete a minimum of 12 credit hours toward their associate degree while having a 3.5 cumulative GPA.

It was 10 years ago, Lori began to think about making a change in career. She worked as an aide for a local school district, but inspired by her daughters desire to become a nurse, Lori began to look at pursuing a career in the healthcare field. She did her research and decided two years ago to quit her job and return to school as a non-traditional student to become a medical assistant. With the encouragement of her husband, Jon, and the rest of her family, she attended classes full-time at Highland. She credits Project Succeed with helping her do well in her studies and to be able to graduate with honors. Highland's Project Succeed assists students with an array of information, counseling, instruction and other support services.

"Hope has always wanted to be a nurse, and she loves it at Highland," Lori said. "When she took her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) course in high school, I looked at the brochure and decided that was of interest to me. That was my trial run to go back to school, and now I will be a graduate and be ready to start a new career as a medical assistant."

Lorita (Lori) Cassell (left) sits next to her daughter Hope on campus at Highland

Lori said going back to school to work toward a new career was a challenge. She knew she wanted to better herself in a new way. She worked part-time as a CNA, as needed, but threw herself into her studies. She spoke with Alicia Kepner, Allied Health Coordinator and Medical Assistant instructor, and decided becoming a medical assistant was the right fit.

"I like the hours and I get to work with the nurses and doctors," Lori said. "Going back to school and getting the support I got through Highland gave me confidence."

Mother and daughter's paths did cross on occasion on campus. It was often a quick hello and it was off to individual classes. Hope said she is proud of her mother, and said she feels honored to have her mother among her peers in PTK.

"When I found out that both Hope and I got an invitation to be inducted into the PTK honor society, I was ecstatic. How many parents get to do this with their children? It’s such an honor," Lori said.

Hope responded, "Mom and I talked about how hard we worked and it's more than an honor for me to be part of PTK with someone who has become my own inspiration, my mom."

Next up for Lori is her externship at Monroe Clinic in Monroe, Wisconsin. Hope plans to graduate in spring 2017 with her associate of applied science degree in Nursing. She will then continue her studies toward a bachelor's degree in nursing at a yet to be determined college or university.

For now, both mother and daughter proudly display their PTK certificates side by side in the home. Added to the display will be Lori's degree from Highland.

"I'm proud of my mom," Hope said. "She tells me I am her inspiration, but she is my inspiration. We are each other's driving force."

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Freeport, IL 61032-9341

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