His family stood and cheered as Jake Warner walked across the stage at the University of La Verne Commencement Ceremony last spring to accept his diploma. At 35-years-old, and well into a successful career as a Senior Technical Producer at Fox Sports Radio, his college graduation was a much awaited and defining moment in all their lives.
The moment he accepted his degree, Warner fulfilled a promise made to his 8-year-old daughter, accomplished a life-long goal and gave his mother her proudest day.
After high school, Warner worked, and also joined the U.S. Navy. He later married and started a family. Through it all, he had always dreamed of college and remembers how his mother, Pam, stressed the importance of education. “There were times when things were really tough and she was raising me and my brother on her own,” he said, “but she always told me I was going to college.” On commencement day, Warner says, both he and his sister-in-law were graduating from La Verne, and half joked that their families might have been the loudest people in the audience.
“From my seat, I could see my mom sitting front and center in the crowd, and she was smiling from ear to ear. She was yelling and screaming, ‘I love you’ through the whole commencement!” He added, “I was the first one in my family to earn a college degree, so she was pretty excited.”
Warner received inspiration and support from his wife Sulma, and daughters Kendra and Savannah, when he decided to make college a reality. In fact, his daughter Kendra was the catalyst for change. “My wife has her degree framed and hung in our home,” he said. “One day, my daughter asked me why my degree wasn’t on the wall next to hers, and I had to tell her it was because I didn’t have one. I remember she told me, ‘Well Daddy, I really hope you get it so I can see yours up there.’ From that moment, I knew that was what I was going to do.”
Sulma was the one who signed him up for an information session to learn more about the programs La Verne offered. “She is subtle that way,” Warner laughed, “but you know what? Her doing that was the push I needed.” Warner enrolled shortly after that and fully dedicated himself to his goal of earning his degree. A first-generation student in the Campus Accelerated Program for Adults (CAPA) program, he had to arrange his schedule accordingly. He worked the graveyard shift, so his mornings consisted of doing his homework then picking his daughters up from school. He would then help them with their homework, and then head back to work. “I really had no time to do anything else but stick to the schedule,” he said. “During the summers, I would take online classes so if we had a family vacation, I could take my class with me and study at night in the hotel room, while the rest of the family slept.”
Warner’s bachelor’s degree in organizational management, with an emphasis in human resources, offers new skills which Warner applies directly to his job, and to his life. Having worked at Fox for 12 years, he has seen the industry change in many ways, and his degree gives him new tools to evolve with it.
“By learning the science of leadership, I have learned to be an effective leader in the workplace and in life in general. La Verne provided that for me, and I am eternally grateful, Warner said.”
Today, his degree hangs next to his wife’s in their home. The piece of paper is a symbol of a dream fulfilled and reflects countless hours of hard work. It is also a daily reminder of sacrifices made and the family support that was given. And more than anything, his degree represents the promise he kept to his daughter.