Profiles in Perseverance
When Elizabeth Gouin was a single mother in the mid-’80s, she took her two young children with her to classes at Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown, Mass.
Nearly three decades later, mother and daughter are together again at college.
Gouin, 53, and daughter, Shaunda Stevens, 30, will both graduate May 11 from the University of Maine.
Gouin, of Old Town, will earn bachelor’s degrees in social work and psychology, and Stevens, of Windham, will receive a bachelor’s in food science and human nutrition.
Gouin recently accepted the 2013 Wallace C. and Janet S. Dunham Prize, presented to an undergraduate who has overcome adversity to achieve personal growth and academic success, who has a positive outlook on life, and who shows potential for further accomplishment.
Gouin fits the bill. And she’s looking forward to the future — she’s been offered a job at Wabanaki Mental Health Association in Bangor.
“I am very proud to have the opportunity to graduate with my daughter,” says Gouin, who years ago earned an associate degree in paralegal studies and a minor in psychology at Bunker Hill.
Stevens’ life hasn’t been without challenges either. In high school, she says she wasn’t a stellar student and she didn’t envision going to college. Then, after working for nearly a decade as a merchandising consultant at a wireless technology provider, in 2010 she was laid off, along with the rest of her department.
“This was just another hurdle to jump over, but it wasn’t the end of the road,” Stevens says. “I weighed my options and found the right path and just moved forward.”
Stevens decided her path included enrolling at UMaine. And she hasn’t dallied along the trail. Stevens is earning her bachelor’s degree in three years and has been accepted into the university’s dietetic internship program. In two more years, she plans to have a graduate degree and take the National Registration Examination, with the goal of becoming a Registered Dietitian.
Stevens says nutrition and physical activity have been interests for some time and they were reinforced after she learned the science behind it. Perhaps her love of exercise was instilled years ago watching her mom play softball for the Bulldogs of Bunker Hill Community College.
Stevens says she’s proud of her mother’s strength, perseverance and tenacity, including managing to earn two degrees in three years at UMaine.
Gouin says her involvement with social work has helped make her a better person. “It’s brought a lot of awareness,” she says. “I think I’m less judgmental and more understanding.”
Stevens adds, “And she is more Dr. Phil-like in conversation. After talking with her you come out feeling motivated.”
To which, mother and daughter burst out laughing. The same raucous laugh. Like mother, like daughter.
After the graduation ceremony May 11, Gouin and Stevens will celebrate with family, including Ben Stevens, Gouin’s son and Stevens’ brother.
In 2007, Ben earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at UMaine. Like son, like mother.