In May 2007, construction worker Michael Vaudreuil sat home for two weeks without any jobs lined up, the first time that had ever happened in all the years he’d been an independent contractor. His thriving 24-year plastering business had ground to a halt as the economy waned. It was the first warning that hard times were ahead.
By fall, he tried to find a steady job with a construction company but by then no one was hiring. The only work he could find was as a night custodian at a local college. It was about a 50 percent pay cut, the work wasn’t stimulating, but the benefits were good.
While he was thankful for the job, the income was not enough to cover his bills, and in 2008, the year of the economic downturn, Vaudreuil had no choice but to file for bankruptcy. His house was foreclosed on and his car repossessed.
He decided he would take advantage of every free benefit the school offered so it would feel like he was making more money. He started taking undergraduate classes tuition free at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts by day and cleaning up after his classmates by night.
Michael Vaudreuill at graduation. Photo: Joyce Vaudreuil
And last week, at the age of 54, Mike received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
He told reporters: “I started taking classes to occupy my time constructively and get my mind off all the crap we were going through. It was one day at a time really,” he said. “I felt productive … and it was paying dividends for how it was affecting me personally. A couple years into it I realized that if I kept it up I could get a degree.”
Michael Vaudreuill. Photo: Joyce Vaudreuil
Almost a decade after his life unraveled, Vaudreuil graduated on May 14 with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering. He wrote “OLD DOG HAS NEW TRICKS” on the top of his mortarboard, and on each corner inscribed a single initial: a “J” for Joyce, his wife; a “P”, for Paul, his son; and an “A” and “N” for Amanda and Nicole, his daughters.
Michael Vaudreuill receives diploma. Photo: Joyce Vaudreuil
At the graduation, when Vaudreuil walked to the stage to accept his diploma, his wife said her husband didn’t walk, “he strutted.” The crowd exploded in applause for him.
It was incredible. For Vaudreuil, however, it was bittersweet. In January 2008, when they knew they were going to lose their livelihood, his mother passed away at age 66. She was on his mind when he crossed the stage.
After the ceremony, Vaudreuil was back to work at his custodial job. But he hopes not for long.
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H/T: Washington Post.