Capella University recently graduated one of its first class of FlexPath students, and their stories bring a new light to the model—first-hand experience with measurable results.

FlexPath is a competency-based education direct assessment model, giving adult students an option to accelerate through their learning. It’s a model ideally suited to working adults who want or need to earn a degree while juggling the rest of their lives (jobs, families, activities, you name it).

John Scafide graduated with a BS in Business Administration and attended the commencement ceremony in March in Washington, DC. He shares a bit about his journey to commencement and what the weekend meant to him.

John Scafide received a BS in Business Administration from Capella University.

I had 12 years of schooling at multiple institutions, took classes at brick and mortar traditional colleges and online, and wasn’t able to find the right fit for me. Finally, I found Capella, and it made the difference in my educational career. Even then, I almost quit 4 times. The support from friends, family, faculty, and my wife all helped motivate me to finish my last assignment for my last class on September 30, 2014.

I had the opportunity to participate in commencement in Washington, DC, and without hesitation, I accepted. There was no way I could let a moment that meant so much to me over the course of over a decade pass by me.

March 2015 FlexPath graduates. [from left: Tracy Dudley, John Scafide, Jacob Sullivan, Rhiannon Paradise, Tapitha Jamison.]
March 2015 FlexPath graduates, from left: Tracy Dudley, John Scafide, Jacob Sullivan, Rhiannon Paradise, Tapitha Jamison.

 This is a shot of us, before lining up for commencement. Meeting one of the first groups of FlexPath graduates was very special. I am very proud of the fact I was able to walk with this diverse group of individuals who aspire to make a difference. From the one who had attended multiple schools to get here, to the one who was motivated by her family to make a change, from the one who felt stupid in a traditional classroom, to the one who wanted to be different, the story was similar—we were graduates, and we felt on top of the world.

We weren’t bashful to tell the story leading up to this moment. Each of us wanted to express the pain, the joy, the challenge, and eventually, the reward. For a group who had never met before that day, by the time we took this picture, we knew lots about each other and how we were able to succeed with Capella and the FlexPath option.

John Scafide was part of a group of FlexPath graduates that shared their experience with Capella President Scott Kinney.
John Scafide was part of a group of FlexPath graduates that shared their experience with Capella President Scott Kinney.

At first I imagined a simple and literally round table, with a few of us talking informally with Capella President Scott Kinney. When I realized the production going on around us, it felt surreal. From professional cameras, to lighting and sound, the moment was not just another part of the day; it was the pinnacle of all the hard work we all put forth during our journeys.

I felt inspired by everyone’s diverse motivations for continuing their education at Capella and their decision to choose FlexPath. While each of us had a different story to tell, we all had a similar destination in mind—to reach this moment, to become a graduate, and to inspire those after us to achieve their dreams as well.

En route to the commencement ceremony.

I spent 12 years thinking I’d never reach the point of graduating with my bachelor’s degree. I received an associate’s degree in 2006 and thought that was the pinnacle of my education. I pushed to one day wear my graduation regalia and finally walk with fellow graduates proud to say, “We did it!”

The morning of commencement, I spent a few minutes reflecting on my journey to this point—what obstacles I had overcome, the challenges I endured balancing work and school. As I prepared to line up, I was reminded of my humble beginnings when I first registered at Capella, just a few years prior. As I continued to walk, I began to see all the people who made this moment possible—faculty, staff, my wife, cameras all over, the excitement as I walked to the sound of bagpipes playing a rendition of “Scotland the Brave.” This was the ultimate reward for all we had accomplished. I made sure I posed for a few cameras as I walked by proud, grateful, and inspired.

Receiving his diploma from Capella President Scott Kinney.

If there were only 2 things going through my mind prior to shaking hands with President Kinney and receiving my degree on stage, they were, “What I do I do from here?” and “Make sure you don’t trip over the steps!” Fortunately, there was a ramp and no steps for me to trip over.

However, as I was about 80th in line out of 400 Business and Technology graduates, I embraced each and every moment in the present, soaking in the milestone I spent 12 years to achieve. I watched as fellow graduates, one by one, walked up on stage, anticipating our line’s turn to stand up and make that walk. As we walked, I was asked by the girl next to me, “Are you nervous?” I responded, “I’ll be nervous my third time around when I am announced as Doctor. Today, however, I’m just excited to make it here.”

As I inched closer, awaiting my name to be called, I stared out in the lights at the hundreds in attendance. There is no better feeling than knowing you are being recognized for the triumphs and successes you rightfully earned. I shook President Kinney’s hand and mentioned quite prominent and clearly, “2 more times.” He responded, “I am looking forward to that, John.” I proceeded to sit down at my section and tweeted “#2MoreTimes.”

#2MoreTimes #capellagrad

— John Scafide (@JohnScafide) March 7, 2015

After the ceremony.

One of my fellow FlexPath graduates happened by, and we congratulated each other for the work we have done. I saw President Kinney make his way closer to us. I wanted to thank him once again for the wonderful and momentous experience this weekend. He said it was Capella’s pleasure. I asked for a photo—a very memorable moment. We talked a bit about our Twitter habits, and mentioned I tweeted “#2MoreTimes” after I received my degree on stage. He laughed and reiterated that he was proud and looked forward to those two more commencements.

John with his wife, Heather, during commencement weekend.

No one supported me more over the course of my 12 years than my wife, Heather. After attending her commencement in 2009 when she received her bachelor’s in business at Temple University, I set out to do the same. But that certainly was easier to say than do. Many times I solicited advice on what I should do. At times I felt at the bottom, never getting closer to the top. She continued to inspire me by reiterating my dreams. Without her, I would have quit in 2010. Once I registered at Capella, I was put in challenging situations, and once again, she taught me the secrets to patience. As I got closer to 2014, I again contemplated quitting—even going as far as stopping the work I was doing in my FlexPath classes.

One important comment Heather offered as I vented my frustrations with school made all the difference. In the end, she said the one thing that picked me back up and has since motivated me to make it to graduation—“I am inspired by you.” I can’t thank her enough for supporting me throughout this experience. Motivating yourself is hard, and I needed her affirmation that I was making not only the right choices, but I was making a difference to her as well.

On graduation weekend, we both were impressed by the experience Capella provided its students. I think Heather’s favorite experience was the president’s dinner and the formality of the event. Now, I’m even trying to convince her to register for her MBA classes with me. I want us both to achieve such a great feeling of success. I know for sure I’ll be walking at least one more time with Capella—receiving my MBA—proud of the support and motivation I was lucky enough to have.

Learn more about FlexPath.

This post is part of a FlexPath Graduates series.