HOUSTON, TX — After retirement, most people plan to travel, but for Linda Flake Jackson, a 72-year-old from Houston, she had another goal in mind, getting a college degree.
And she did. Jackson graduated from Lone Star College-University Park with an Associate of Arts field of study degree in Criminal Justice recently.
“Getting my degree was number one on my bucket list,” said Jackson. “From the time I walked onto campus, I knew everyone wanted me to succeed. Even down to the security guard who greeted me with a smile! Everybody was on board with my goals.”
In May, LSC-University Park held a virtual ceremony for over 1000 graduates representing various students. Some entered college directly after high school, while others enrolled following a break from school. For Jackson, the gap was a long one, almost half a century.
“We strive to offer the best academic education and support network so that any student, at any stage, can achieve their goal,” said Dr. Shah Ardalan, president of LSC-University Park. “Linda’s story is inspiring, and it shows that no one should ever give up on their dreams.”
Coming back after so many years naturally left Jackson with several questions regarding the best path for her success. After a 24-year career with an oil and gas company and then 20 years with the Department of Homeland Security, she considered pursuing a degree in psychology. However, she decided to her degree plan in criminal justice thanks to her adviser and a committed professor.
“After just one criminal justice class with professor Jermaine Johnson, I was hooked,” said Jackson. “I love justice and making sure everyone is done right by the system.”
Jackson intends to join a local nonprofit for criminal justice reform. The Innocence Project of Texas would be her dream gig after obtaining her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Houston-Downtown. She starts classes there this fall.
Despite her parents’ lack of education, Linda and her eight brothers and sisters were adamant about getting a degree. Her oldest brother holds a Ph.D., and her sister has a master’s degree. She grew up in the Acres Homes area of Klein ISD and was a member of Klein High School’s first integrated class in 1966.
“My parents worked hard to support our family,” said Jackson. “They instilled that work ethic in their children. Education was paramount. I always knew that I wanted to come back to get my degree. Life got in the way, including getting married, having children, and starting a career, but I knew when I retired that I was ready.”
“Linda’s level of enthusiasm and gratitude is inspiring to me,” said Dr. Ardalan. “Our programs and success initiatives foster in students a desire to affect positive change in their own lives and the lives of others. It’s a ripple effect of inspiration throughout the community. Our faculty and staff are passionate about teaching, mentoring and seeing students succeed through graduation and beyond. Everything we offer on campus has been designed to fully support their individual needs. We want everyone who walks through our doors – whether they are 17 or 72 – to be successful.”