Going back to college didn’t seem to be an option at first for Joy Loest.

“You start raising a family, and you kind of put your education behind you,” said Loest, a mother of six. “Yet you know it’s still a part of you.”

Loest held off continuing her education until one of her daughters, Robin Janecka, began attending Victoria College after graduating from St. Joseph High School in 1994.

“I thought maybe we could take a class together or something,” said Loest, who had previously attended Victoria College after graduating from Nazareth Academy in 1971 as class salutatorian.

“How many people can say they went to college with their mom?” Janecka said. “It was kind of weird at first that my mom was in class with me, but it was such a blessing. We sat next to each other in our chemistry class, and we were lab partners. We always had the right answers because she’s so smart. It was a great time, and we didn’t have to go on a shopping trip, we didn’t have to go out to a restaurant – we had a college class together.”

Loest had completed many of her basic courses back in the 1970s at VC, but she wasn’t sure which direction she wanted to go with her education when she returned to school.

“Everybody around me was talking about VC’s nursing programs, so I guessed that was maybe what I needed to pursue,” Loest said. “It also just happened that many of the courses I had taken previously could be transferred to nursing.”

Loest graduated from Victoria College’s Associate Degree Nursing Program in 1998.

“I thoroughly enjoyed learning again,” Loest said. “My parents instilled in me that in everything I do, I must make sure I do the very best I can. The program was very intensive, but it was very good. After graduating from the program, I kind of had to remind myself that I had children because I had been so caught up in my studies.”

Loest went to work immediately at Citizens Medical Center, where she is currently a Registered Nurse in endoscopy.

“I love my work so much,” said Loest, who has 10 grandchildren. “I didn’t want to retire when they asked me if I wanted to. My children and my grandchildren are my life, but the work at Citizens is also very important to me.”

Janecka obtained her Associate of Applied Science degree from Victoria College in 1996. She and her husband, Richard, who also attended Victoria College, own and operate Sign Crafters in Victoria.

“We’ve been in business for 24 years,” Janecka said. “We struggled to build the business from the ground up, and we’ve gone from a little, bitty location to a big location. We really pride ourselves on in-house production and the quality of the product that we can give out.”

Janecka said deciding to attend Victoria College was a logical and wise decision.

“I was young, and I didn’t have a clue what the future held for me,” Janecka said. “VC was amazing for me, because it is where all the pieces just fell together. The classes provided me a great foundation for helping my husband in his business. Also, I could stay at home, and my parents would still let me use the car that I needed to use. It just made so much sense.”

Janecka, whose two sons, Collin and James, took dual-credit classes at Victoria College during their junior and senior years at Victoria East High School, said she enjoyed the atmosphere at VC.

“It felt like home, like a family,” Janecka said. “I was here with a lot of my classmates from high school, so I felt comfortable at VC. I didn’t feel overwhelmed. I had my school family and my genetic family. Victoria College gave me the best of both worlds.”

Janecka said she finds herself hearkening back to what she learned at VC to help her solve daily tasks at her business.

“I come to work and remember the bookkeeping classes, the economics classes, the mathematics classes and how to get from Step A to Step B,” Janecka said. “You’ve got to be able to fill in the blanks in between, and Victoria College greatly helped me to do that.”

“Victoria College provides that family feel,” Loest said. “You can step out and go to Victoria College but still feel part of a family. It’s not such a big step that you feel lost. I know people who go somewhere else first and then come back home to Victoria College. I don’t think they’d come back here if it wasn’t a wonderful place.”

The daughter and mother said they are proud to see the impact Victoria College makes in the community.

“Being involved with a lot of volunteer organizations, I have met some great people that have lots of history with Victoria College,” Janecka said. “It’s great to see these wonderful people who have started their journey at Victoria College, and they continue to give back to the community in so many different ways.”

“Victoria College is basically one of the building blocks of the whole of Victoria, because most of your people get such a good education here that they want to stay here and they want to continue to make Victoria grow into a better place,” Loest said. “Robin and her husband are a perfect example. I believe the majority of people in Victoria can say that Victoria College was part of their journey.”