On the surface, Triston and Kerrie Druen appear to be typical college students. They are both doing their best to balance life with their course load and are concerned about the questions on an assignment that is due in their next class.
Except Kerrie and Triston are not your typical college students — they are mother and son. They do share a last name and the campus at Western Kentucky University. Since Triston recently switched his major to the same as his mom, Organizational Leadership, they’ve started their first semester together — as classmates.
“Mondays are my new favorite day of the week,” Kerrie said. “We call it ‘Mondays with Mom.’ We spend time together going to eat and catching up and then we go to class together. I feel like the older my kids get, the more time I want to spend with them.”
Kerrie drives from Owensboro to Bowling Green every Monday for her night class on Western’s campus. Triston has shorter commute since he lives in Bowling Green.
“I can tell it’s going to be interesting. I know what my mom is like outside of class and now I can see what she’s like in class too,” Triston said. “I’m worried what she might say next to embarrass me. My mom is very outspoken about her opinion in class”
The Druens both agree that having class together makes them more accountable as students.
“It makes it easier when I have questions,” Kerrie said. “It’s nice to be able to talk to another classmate and go back and forth. It’s helpful.”
“A lot of times in class, whenever you hit trouble when studying or working on an assignment, you want to quickly find a way to contact someone else to ask them about the class, but sometimes you can’t remember their name or don’t have their number,” Triston said. “I get to have someone who raised me that I can call for help any time.”
Kerrie decided to go back to school to get her bachelor’s degree after years of struggling and wanting more out of life. The right time for her just so happened to coincide with her son, Triston also enrolling in college.
“It has taken me a very long time to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Out of necessity, I went back to school,” Kerrie explained. “I have a lot of life experience, but I didn’t have the education to back that up. Once I get that degree and the experience I have with it, I’ll be good to go.”
Kerrie knew she wanted more, but the path she had been taking was leaving her at a dead end.
“I never consulted God when I was traipsing through life. Even though being a corporate trainer is what I want, I also pray daily for Him to guide and direct me to the path He wants me on,” Kerrie said. “I’ve already gone the way I want to go and I’ve gotten to several detours and roadblocks and I’m ready for a straight road. That’s where I need to be.”
Triston says having his mom on campus isn’t strange. In fact, he likes having her there to keep him accountable.
“I haven’t heard anything except for compliments. Some people think it’s funny, but most people think it’s cool,” Triston said. “It’s someone to keep me in line, keep me in check. My friends have said they wish they had someone like that with them too.”
Kerrie acknowledges that it’s hard sometimes to separate the roles of mom and classmate when she’s with her son.
“I think a challenge for me is remembering to take my mom hat off and replace it with my classmate hat because I want him to enjoy this class and this time with me and not dread it. It is something that I’m trying to be very mindful of,” Kerrie said. “I’ll turn to say something to the student next to me and it just so happens the student next to me I gave birth to.”
When it comes to completing their degrees and jumping into their new field of expertise, they will face different hurdles. Kerrie has the work experience, but was missing the education component. Triston will have his degree, but will be looking to earn credibility and experience at his first job post-graduation.
“I’m extremely proud of my mom,” Triston explained. “Not only that she’s gone back to school, but that she’s still doing it. Just seeing her struggle between being a mother, working and going to school – I think my life is stressful enough, but she has more things to tackle than I do.”
When asked about those women or moms who are still trying to finish their degrees or chase their dreams, Kerrie says, “just do it.”
“A college degree was something I never knew I wanted and now it’s something I can’t imagine not having,” Kerrie said. “It’s too late when you’re dead. Other than that, it’s never too late. I got tired of struggling. Change had to occur. Here I am now, 11 months away from my bachelor’s degree.”
Although there have been obstacles for Kerrie and Triston, Kerrie said there is one motto they live by.
“The tassel is worth the hassle,” Kerrie said. “I’ve got it on my front door — I see it every day when I walk out my door.”