Living with a motto of ‘nev­er give up,’ Judy Kinder, at 59-years-old, is now among the area’s college graduates.

“I did want to give up sev­eral times, but then God sent me an angel to give me the encouragement to stay with it until I got done,” Kinder said.

Kinder graduated from East Central University Dec. 15 with a general studies de­gree.

“When I didn’t know how I’d pay the next bill, little miracles happened to come through,” she said.

Kinder grew up in Love County but graduated from Big Pasture High School in Randlett in 1971. She mar­ried soon after and raised three children.

She divorced and worked a variety of jobs, including private caregiver and worked at Comanche County Memo­rial Hospital.

“I thought I wasn’t smart enough (for college),” she said. “I was ornery in school, and thought it was there for play, not to learn.” In 2003, she moved to Ardmore to care for her ail­ing mother. A couple years later, Kinder was working for veterinarian Dr. John C. Collins, who told her she should become a veterinary technician.

“He inspired me and gave me enough faith to do it,” Kinder said.

She began taking classes at Murray State College through the Ardmore Higher Educa­tion Center. In her third se­mester, she began commut­ing to veterinary tech classes in Tishomingo.

However, a math course would become a major hur­dle. She failed the course and dropped out of the vet tech program.

“I was too proud to go back,” she said.

Kinder finished her associ­ate degree in 2008, but had no luck finding employment with her new degree.

She returned to AHEC and enrolled in the nursing pro­gram offered through East Central University. Yet, once again, math courses were a struggle.

“I was trying to get enough credits, and I don’t know why I have a block on math," Kinder said.

Kinder switched to an education major at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, but when she realized she would need 60 more credits to graduate, she decided to earn a liberal arts and sciences degree.

"I finished in two semesters and can start paying loans back," she said.

At the beginning of her last semester, her student loans were not awarded due to the six years she had spent in school.

"I cannot begin to describe the sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach when it occurred to me that I was so close but would not be able to finish," Kinder said.

Dr. Robin Plumb, Southeastern's director of academic services at the University Center, helped Kinder find a scholarship to pay for the final semester .

The ability to take courses in Ardmore was a key component to Kinder's success.

"There is no reason that any student in this area cannot attend college economically," she said. "There are so many people who have touched my life along this journey that I have been blessed to know, and each one is in partly responsible for my success story." Now, Kinder hopes to find a job so she can inspire youth to follow their dreams.

"I feel like my degree was my last chance to do something. I was lucky enough to get a chance, and I want to help the young people who are our future," she said.