PARK HILLS — It was tough going, but when Candice and Matthew Pullen of Bonne Terre were finished, they were not only graduates of Central Methodist College at Mineral Area College with degrees in elementary education, they were CMC at MAC’s 999th and 1,000th graduates.
Sam Mason, director of CMC at MAC, said that the couple represented more than a statistical milestone in the college program’s 20-year history at MAC.
“They could be considered a composite of many of our most successful graduates,” Mason said. “Many of our students are juggling career, family, and other interests in addition to their education. When they’re concentrating on that many facets of their lives, it takes a lot of organization, a lot of hard work and dedication.”
The couple, who graduated from Central High School in 1999 and married in May 2002, credit earning their diplomas on July 26 to the support and help they received from their family, friends and employers.
“We couldn’t have done it without them,’ said Candice. “My grandma and grandpa helped pay for my books, my whole family has been supportive. If we really needed their help, our families were there to offer it. They’ve always been very supportive.”
For both Candice and Matthew, the choice of MAC for their first two years and attending CMC for another two years was a no-brainer.
“Going to college here was something I always wanted to do,” said Candice. “No one else in my family had been to college, that I know of.”
“And, coming here to MAC, we knew about CMC,” he said. “So the choice was easy. I think we’re more homebodies, anyway, and plus, we could work here and pay for and attend college and stay close to our families.”
The couple both contend that while working full-time and attending college at night was tough, they said they knew it would have been a lot harder if they had attended a college or university miles away from home.
Candice said, “We would have had to work if we had gone away to college, anyway —
“– But we would have paid maybe two or three, maybe four times as much for our education, and we’d have more student loans to pay off,” finished Matthew.
The couple found other assets in attending CMC together.
“We had a lot of classes together, which helped a lot,” said Candice. “If I was sick, he could go to class for both of us, and if he was sick, I could do the same. It also helped when we studied, because if one of us had a question, the other could probably answer it, and we’d figure things out together.”
“It also helped,” Matthew said, “because we could share the textbooks. That was a big savings for us.”
While attending CMC, a typical day for the two started with work from about 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Then, two nights a week, they would rush to CMC to attend classes from 5-11 p.m.
The Pullens said they faced a tough time when both spent two months student teaching, as part of the elementary education program.
“That meant we were at school from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 4 p.m.,” Candice said. “The only way we got through it was because our employers were so understanding and encouraged us to finish the program. Once we finished the student teaching, we could go back to our jobs.”
At the time, Candice was working at the Farmington License Bureau office, and Matthew worked for Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy in Leadington.
Upon graduating, Matthew got a job in the Central School District — the alma mater for both — as a second-grade teacher.
“It’s great to work at the school I attended,” Matthew said, grinning, “but sometimes it seems a little strange. I saw my fifth-grade teacher, who’s now a tech at Central, and I guess he was feeling his age a little bit when he saw me, because he said, ‘You shouldn’t be here yet.’ But I love it.”
For now, Candice is continuing to work at the Farmington License Bureau Office from morning until mid-afternoon. She also directs the Farmington School District after-school program from 3-6 p.m.