Linda Creek continues ed through LifeTrackBy Matthew Wilson | 04/13/2015 10:05pm
Linda Creek was awarded the Alice Parker award, named after a long working University professor, for her love of learning and the humanities. Photo courtesy of Linda Creek
Linda Creek was planning to pursue a degree in special education at The University of Alabama when she was forced to drop out, get a job and take care of her family. Her mother was sick, and her father, who worked for 35 years at a paper factory, lost his job.
Almost 40 years later, Creek returned to the University through New College’s LifeTrack program to complete her lifelong dream of education. At Honors Day, Creek was awarded the Alice Parker Award, named after a long-working University professor, for her love of [learning] and the humanities.
“I consider it an honor to be able to take care of my family, but back then, it was a little embarrassing,” Creek said. “It was very hard to tell your friends when they were talking about being in school that you wouldn’t get to go. I’m thankful that I had such great people who believed in me. You sort of don’t have great self confidence when you haven’t been to school in a long time.”
For the award, Director Ana Schuber said they try to find a student who has fallen in love with learning. Creek has exemplified those qualities they were looking for, as a hands-on person who has excelled through the program, Schuber said.
“Linda really has that spark,” Schuber said. “You can really see the change in her since she came into this program. She’s really blossomed in what she loves to do.”
LifeTrack, started in 1973, is a program designed to help students over 25 pursue and complete a degree. LifeTrack has over 350 students that learn both at a distance and through hands-on activities. Schuber said advisers work with students to plan out individualized degrees for each student.
The program, Schuber said, caters to those with families and responsibilities because it’s flexible and accepts transfer credits from other institutions and programs.
Through the program, Creek has collected and identified fish species from the Cahaba River, hiked through the Talledega forest and studied her ancestry. Creek has also stayed up until 2 a.m. writing in-depth essays on topics like binge drinking and sexual assault cases in Tuscaloosa.
“I love it,” she said. “I go to all the football games.” “I’m kind of energized. I go to the library to do my studying. I’m not ashamed of it one bit. I’m proud.”
Her adviser Lisa Young said Creek has blossomed through the program and truly enjoys the learning experience that the program offers her.
“She’s not one of those students that comes in and takes easy courses,” she said. “She likes the new learning aspect of it. She’s not coming in and just taking classes for the grade. She’s determined. She’s like a peer mentor to other students.”
Creek said her love for learning and desire to help people has influenced her throughout her life. While working to support her family, Creek took night classes at Shelton State Community College, and her desire to help others led her to a career in the vocational division at Easter Seals.
There, Creek said she worked with people from mental institutions, students who dropped out of school and others with physical disabilities. One of the first people she helped was a high school classmate who became paralyzed after a diving accident. She said she helped him learn how to drive again.
Creek said this desire stemmed from her early childhood when she saw other people make fun of people with disabilities.
“I like to work with people who have disabilities because sometimes people like to treat them like they can’t do anything,” she said. “They can do the same things we can do - it just might take an extra step to get there.”
Creek has since retired from Easter Seals, but she said she is still on the board and volunteers by spearheading fundraisers. Creek also substitute teaches in her free time. She said balancing her activities and schoolwork can be difficult, but it’s all about staying disciplined and doing the work she has to get done.
Getting an education was a dream that never left her, Creek said. After hearing about LifeTrack, she said she surprised her husband with the news that she was going back to school.
“I just think it’s a good story to let people know if you flunk out of Alabama, you got another chance,” she said. “Sometimes people are embarrassed. I think it gives people the strength to realize, they need to get an education. If you want to go bad enough, you can do it.”