Is persistence genetic? You might think so after meeting Kathleen Turner, her twin sister Kelley, and Kathleen’s daughter Kae’leen Hickman, the only mother-sister-daughter combo currently enrolled at the College. While each is pursuing a different dream at Alverno, they share a whatever-it-takes dedication toward earning their degrees and blazing a trail for others in their close-knit family to follow.

“Nobody in our family has ever earned a college degree. Nobody,” explained Kathleen. “I came here not just because I wanted to learn, but because I also wanted to set an example. Now there are three of us here, and you can be sure more will follow.”

Kathleen was the first to enroll at Alverno, arriving in 2009. First-year science, math and writing courses nearly brought her college career to an early end, but she knew her children and sisters were watching. Her first English paper was returned five times for more work, but the experience taught her a lesson that helped her at first survive, then gradually excel as a student.

“The first thing you learn at Alverno is that you are capable of much more than you think,” she recalled.

Kathleen found her academic calling in an introductory philosophy course. Long an instinctive believer, she discovered French philosopher René Descartes’ rationale for the existence of God – a viewpoint similar to her own. It gave her confidence to continue.

Today, she looks forward to graduating in May 2013 with a major in philosophy.

Kelley, Kathleen’s twin sister, at first questioned how Kathleen could successfully combine work, family and school. She watched her sister struggle with her first-year courses, but she also saw her confidence rise and her enthusiasm grow. “After a year, she had really grown a lot. I thought if she can do this, I can, too,” Kelley recalled.

Kelley faced the same initial academic hurdles that had challenged Kathleen, but found guidance and support from her sister. “I didn’t realize how accessible the Alverno professors were, but Kathleen urged me to email or call them with my questions. She steered me to the Communication Resource Center and the Math Resource Center. My first year was a challenge, but I kept thinking ‘if Kathleen can do this, I can do this.’”

Today Kelley is a sophomore “teeter-tottering” between majoring in nursing or community leadership and development. She says her heart is in both places, and she will take all the time available to choose.

For Kathleen’s daughter Kae’leen, starting at Alverno in 2011 after graduating with honors from Oak Creek High School was an easy decision. She saw how much both her mom and aunt were growing and how closely they worked with their instructors. A talented writer – she had been giving both women feedback on their papers – she liked what she saw in the curriculum. When her high school principal encouraged her to attend Alverno, the decision was made.

Kae’leen, also a sophomore, is the surest about her future – she plans to major in psychology and then pursue doctoral studies related to autism. Though graduate studies are still a long way away, she recognizes what an important step it will be for her family.

Click on the 2011-12 President’s Report to read more amazing stories like the one featuring Kathleen, Kelley and Kae’leen.