She is a renaissance woman who looks with anticipation at the wide-open canvas of her life. There is so much to do, so much that piques her curiosity. She likes the possibilities. The foundation for what Victoria Stewart will do has been laid with her life’s experience and now with the associate in arts degree she just earned, a tool that will open more doors of opportunity. It would have been easy to assume she would enter college bent on earning a degree in journalism. She is, after all, a freelance writer/photographer for The Chronicle and for DeVaul Publishing, has served as a writer for and managing editor of the Lewis County News, and wrote and edited the Legionnaire the Washington state American Legion newsletter. At Centralia College she served as the editor and photographic designer of Beyond Parallax, a showcase publication primarily for student-generated literary and artistic talent. One of her poems and, augmenting her display of talent, several pieces of her photographic art were included in the publication.
But as it is with many writers, when it came to working on her degree she didn’t want to limit herself. “There’s so much I’m interested in, so much to learn. I want to get a wide range of knowledge and that’s why I went after the associate degree.” And she did that in style, graduating this June with honors.
“Earning my two-year degree was important. I know so much more about the world around me. I really enjoyed taking Pat Pringle’s (earth sciences professor) class. Now I can look at rocks and not only know how they were formed, I also know how they got there. He taught me so much about the environment. Jody Peterson (history/political science professor) brought history to life. It was fun to be in her class. All my instructors made their subjects exciting. I enjoyed Centralia College from the time I first walked into a classroom,” said Stewart.
Beginning her college career in 2007 was not an easy direction. She is a 1985 Napavine High School honor graduate but spent the following 20-plus years working as a journalist, raising a family, and involving herself in a myriad of community activities. She also battled some major health issues. Going to college, which began fulfilling one of her life’s dreams, was a significant life change, but a challenge she accepted. “It was time,” she said. When checking out colleges she started with Centralia College partly because it was close to her home but also because of its reputation. “People I know had a lot of success here. I knew by talking to others that I would get a really good education,” she said. So she took the plunge.
“I really appreciated the support I received all along but it was particularly important and helpful when I first started,” said Stewart. “People always took the time to help. They made me feel welcome.” She could see the opportunities to get a great education, a fresh start, and areas for new involvement. And getting involved in college was part of Stewart’s psyche. Involvement defines her, community service motivates her. She served 10 years as a volunteer in the local school system assisting teachers in planning, organizing and implementing activities for preschool through third grade students; she monitored students in classrooms and on field trips; served as a food drive volunteer; and is a former Lewis County Master Gardener. She worked with the Lewis County Historical Museum and the Boy Scouts of America. She has a long list of recognitions for service from organizations such as Lewis County Crime Stoppers and the Association of University Women. Stewart was also selected for inclusion in Who’s Who in American Journalism. Adding to that is her penchant for performing arts as a standup comic. What doesn’t she do?
It’s easy to see why Stewart has succeeded in college. In addition to positive outlook, she works hard and is blessed with a natural curiosity that took seed at the tender age of seven when she said she wanted to be a spy. “I would follow shoppers around the supermarket then I would journal what they did. ” While the spy career is on hold, “that curiosity and the journaling have stayed with me,” said Stewart. She parlayed both skills into her writing career.
Stewart’s life experiences have helped her develop a formula for success in school. “I think you need to challenge yourself, engage the professors, read the material, and do the work. Do that and success will be yours,” she said. She’s proof that the recipe works. “I received my two-year college degree at Centralia College but more important is the fact that I received a great education from the professors who taught the classes. Centralia College has been such a good school for me,” said Stewart.
While she plans to continue her push to earn a four-year degree she will always be willing to explore opportunities that might pop up. “I want to keep this area as my base but I’ve learned to be open, to be ready for opportunities that come along. There’s a lot that can happen when you are receptive,” said Stewart.