WINONA LAKE — When thirty-six-year-old Jerry Koontz of Elkhart, found himself volunteering at his sons’ martial arts academy two nights per week for several hours, he was struck with an idea. The excuse of a lack of time would not suffice anymore. He was going back to school. He would finish his degree.
Koontz graduated high school with a job selling pagers in 1996. This led to a job offer with a salary that was too good to pass up, but he still wanted a degree. So, he began his collegiate studies at IUPUI with a full-time job. What the zealous eighteen-year-old did not realize at the time, was that full-time student + 60-hour job with regular travel demands was not an equation that added up. After a swift transfer to Ivy Tech and an Associates Degree to claim, Koontz continued to follow where the wireless industry moved him.
“What I lacked in education, I made up for in flexibility,” explained Koontz. He and his wife moved from Indianapolis, IN to Akron, OH to Columbus, OH in a short amount of time, and when the next job landed them in Warsaw, the couple wanted to stay. They loved the quaint town of Warsaw and the strong values that the community promotes. It was the ideal place to raise a family, and they didn’t want to live with the fear of relocating their 3 boys.
Cue the taekwondo epiphany. The second-degree black belt hit the books.
And the program of choice? Grace College’s GOAL program: a degree completion program for adults. “It was just a matter of getting started. The program helped me take care of the rest!” Koontz said there was a lot of anxiety surrounding the idea of going back to school: finding the right building, readjusting to classmates. His list of concerns was lengthy, but Koontz found that the GOAL program aptly combats those concerns making the learning experience ideal for adults.
Koontz completed the degree in 16 months, where he met his cohort every Monday night, at the same time, in the same classroom. He also took advantage of experiential learning credits: an opportunity which has students reflect on projects they’ve completed in their previous work experience. When Koontz graduated from the program, he not only walked away with a bachelor’s degree, but with “noticeable and immediate results on the job,” as he put it.
Most importantly, it was his completed bachelor’s degree that qualified Koontz for a Financial Advising Position with Edward Jones–a position that for the first time, would allow the Koontz family to stay.
“I’m an advocate for Grace and for Caudill’s ATA Black Belt Academy. They changed our family’s life” said Koontz. “The degree has given us the peace of mind that we can plant roots and stay here if that is what we want to do.” And that is exactly what they have done. A greeter at church on Sundays and little league coach on Saturday, Jerry Koontz has become an integral part of the Warsaw/Winona Lake community and it all started with taekwondo.
If you would like to learn more about the GOAL program and the opportunity to finish your degree as an adult, go to www.grace.edu/academics/school-of-professional-online-education/.