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Lt. Governor Henderson's non-traditional path to becoming a college graduate

Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson graduation photo
Posted at 4:52 PM, Dec 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-20 21:40:54-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson has accomplished something big — and it has nothing to do with politics.

She has graduated from college.

"It’s 29 years in the making," Lt. Gov. Henderson said in a recent interview with FOX 13.

After years of stops and starts, the Lt. Governor is graduating with a bachelor's degree in history from Brigham Young University. The path to graduation has been delayed, and hasn't been easy.

"I got married young, after my freshman year at BYU, and it’s taken me all this time to finally finish what I need to do to graduate," she said, adding: "My husband, I had to help put him through physical therapy school. So I worked two jobs and I had five children in eight years and I always wanted to go back. I took independent study courses here and there, but life kind of took hold. I always thought when my youngest child was in school then I’d go back to school, but I was involved in politics. It wasn’t anything I planned on doing, I fell head first into that."

Lt. Gov. Henderson found success in politics, being involved in campaigns and herself being elected to the Utah State Senate to represent the Spanish Fork area. But after her election to the legislature, she said she felt "shame" at not having a college degree.

She attended a course at BYU where department heads assumed she was there to be a speaker and also discovered that while she was elected by voters to represent her district, she did not meet the university's requirements to even be a legislative intern.

"I just decided to be really open about the fact that I hadn’t finished school. I realized I'm not the only one in this situation. There are a lot of other people, for various reasons, who have to put aside their own goals and ambitions and things that they want to do on the back burner, including education," Lt. Gov. Henderson said.

Her path to getting a bachelor's degree was very non-traditional. She was serving in the Utah State Legislature, getting elected Lt. Governor and also dealing with contracting COVID-19. She finished her degree while serving in the executive branch. Lt. Gov. Henderson said she buckled down and finished her graduation projects over the Thanksgiving break, sending her family off to celebrate the holiday without her.

"This has been really difficult, but at the same time I’m glad I did things this way so I can have that perspective," Lt. Gov. Henderson said. "So I can see what the barriers are that non-traditional students overcome."

Lt. Gov. Henderson said she has heard from others who have taken inspiration from her return to college, saying "Well, if she can do it so can I."

She will walk in a ceremony next year with her son, who will also be graduating. The Lt. Governor said it is her hope that others realize it's never too late to go back to school.

"It’s not too late. It might be uncomfortable. It might be a little bit intimidating to walk into a roomful of students who are young enough to be your children, but it’s wonderful actually to be a non-traditional student," Lt. Gov. Henderson said. "It is wonderful to have a life experience and to go back and understand better the context that all the things your professors are teaching you have, and the meaning they have to everyday. It’s been a great experience for me. I’ve actually loved it."

Then she added: "I’m glad to be done."