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The Class of 2023


When I graduated high school 21 years ago, a part of me knew I wasn’t ready for college. I didn’t feel confident in what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t have much guidance or know how to ask for help. I did one semester of community college and stopped. I had gotten a really good job as a mail carrier and wasn’t the point of college to get to that same goal? Why did I need to go?

But then I turned 21 and felt this innate need to learn. I enrolled, once again in community college, taking a single English class. I LOVED it. But, again, life got in the way and I let my inner voice tell me that getting my degree was a priority.


Flash forward, 2.5 years. I’m 23, ending a marriage that probably should have never happened, feeling lost and mad at myself for letting someone else tell me that my goals weren’t important. Then, along came Tim. I fell head over heels in love super fast. (At the time, I’m sure some of those thought too fast.) We made the decision that I would quit my very good job and move 3 hours from home to be with him and start back at school.


Now here’s where I had an identity crisis. I pledged Agriculture Business Management as my major. Yes, I really wanted to be a farm girl and while part of me always will, the agriculture part wasn't where my head was, but business was rather intriguing to me. After living in Yuma, Arizona for 2 years, Tim and I took a giant leap of faith and moved to Ohio. We knew no one here, but we desperately needed a change in scenery. Moving to the midwest saved us in so many ways that I can't even describe. We would never have adopted our daughter, never have met the people that have become an extension of our family. Never would have found our dream home or rescued the animals that we have. I truly believe in fate, and our fate lies in Ohio.


In 2018, I was feeling restless. I had considered going back to school, but starting again had me fearing I would end up stopping. I'm a big believer in signs and for the hell of it one day, I typed in the BGSU website. To my surprise, the application was free. I took it as a sign and said, "what the heck, it can't hurt." And the rest is.. well, again, fate. Only, I declared social work as a major. I took several prerequisite classes and was chugging along. Then COVID hit and as most of you are aware (if not, go all the way back to the beginning of our blog), I became a crazy candle lady. In the fall of 2020, as I was sitting in my first true social work class, I had what can only be described as an "AH HA" moment. I was in the wrong place. I no longer had the bleeding heart I had 15 years prior. My head wasn't in the human services business, but more importantly, my heart was in the business business. Without much more of a thought, I switched majors, going for a Bachelors in Technical and Applied studies with a focus in small business management.


And here we are now. On Friday, April 29th, I graduated cum laude. Something my 23 year old self would have never imagined. (My 23 year old self would also be in shock to know that I am going to go for my MBA as well.) When I tell you the last four years flew, I mean it. It has been a rollercoaster of fun, stress, sleepless nights, pep talks, tears, laughter and joy. I'm not usually one to brag on myself. I try to stay humble and appreciative of the road it took to get to where I am today. However, I would be lying if I didn't say I'm pretty damn proud of myself. I balanced school, a full time job, a family and a candle business and still graduated with honors.


I always try to be someone to encourage others to chase their dreams, no matter how crazy they may seem. I truly believe that when you want something bad enough, you will make it happen. No dream or desire is too crazy, no goal too big or small. Always be a dreamer, always look to better yourself, always find value in the contributions you bring to the world. I know you can do it. If I can, you can. Don't limit yourself to what others say you are capable of. You are more than you know.


Sending love & light,

Julia D. Nickell, BTAS


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Well done Julia!

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