30 Years in the Making: UToledo Graduate Finished Her Degree

May 10, 2021 | Graduate News, News, UToday, Alumni, University College
By Staff

In 1994, Marguerite Dunston-Copeland set out to pursue her life’s dream.

“Right out of high school, I enrolled at Alabama State University where I completed three years of school,” she said. “Some obstacles arose in my life and I had to take a step away from school.”

Graduation Cap

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: UToledo recognizes the Class of 2021 with a series of stories featuring students receiving their degrees at spring commencement.

Challenges continued to happen that kept Dunston-Copeland away from school for several more years — but not forever. In 2006, she graduated from Owens Community College with an associate’s degree in early childhood education. She then worked at several area daycare centers, until she opened her own home-based childcare, Precious Steps. Since 2014, Dunston-Copeland has worked as a paraprofessional for Toledo Public Schools, but she still felt the need to chase her dream.

“I wanted to be able to fulfill my dreams, which is to become an educator, and that required me to come back to school and get my bachelor’s degree.”

In addition to her internal drive, Dunston-Copeland had some external motivations. First, her father, who passed away before Dunston-Copeland was able to achieve her early childhood education degree but instilled in her motivation to continue her education. Second, her family and friends, who always encouraged Dunston-Copeland to finish her degree. Third, her students at TPS, who weren’t afraid to push Dunston-Copeland to pursue her dreams as she did the same for them.

“One year a student challenged me right back when I told him that one of my expectations for him was to graduate from high school,” Dunston-Copeland said. “He told me, ‘Well, if you want me to promise you that I will graduate, you have to promise me and your dad the same. I’m sure he has the same expectations for you, even from heaven.’ ”

So, she enrolled at The University of Toledo in 2017; however, once again she had to delay her education because of an unforeseen circumstance. That’s where the support system at The University of Toledo stepped in.

Marguerite Dunston-Copeland’s father passed away before she was able to achieve her early childhood education degree, but he instilled in her the motivation to continue her education.

“My academic advisor, Matt Reising, has been more than just encouraging and supportive, he’s gone above and beyond by calling me each semester after I had to withdraw in 2017,” Dunston-Copeland said. “Had it not been for his diligence for over two years I would not be at this point.”

Reising, however, gives all the credit to his student.

“When I think of Marguerite, I think of the word tenacious,” he said. “Despite opposition and personal hardships, Marguerite clung onto the goal of obtaining her degree to do better for herself and her family. Holding onto the belief that a degree was attainable and never admitting defeat is what got her to this point, and I am thrilled to have witnessed her journey.”

Now at the end of that journey, having earned a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, Dunston-Copeland is excited for two things: living her dream in becoming a certified teacher and returning to school in the fall to pursue her master’s degree in education at UToledo.

It’s the start of another journey, with its own set of challenges. But Dunston-Copeland is confident that she will again finish what she started.

“As a nontraditional, full-time student, who is a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter and caregiver, on top of juggling a full-time job, it does make the path a bit more difficult,” she said. “However, if your dreams are something that you are passionate about, and you want to see them unfold, there is nothing that can or will stop you in pursuing your happiness.”

Click to access the login or register cheese