Holly Varner didn’t let a 23-year hiatus stop her from pursuing her education.
The 40-year-old Washington native put her education on hold after high school so that she could support her husband Kevin’s Navy career, and they could raise a family. That military career would last 21 years, and take the Varners up and down the West Coast.
While living in Washington, Oregon, California and Japan, Varner realized she loved immersing herself in different cultures.
“I intended to glean everything I could from the travel aspect,” she said.
Varner served as an ombudsman, acting as a liaison between the Navy command and the other families stationed on the base. She also volunteered extensively with the American Red Cross.
While travelling around the world, Varner developed a passion for cultures and new experiences and she gained insight into people’s lives.
When her husband retired from the Navy, Varner decided the best way to further that passion was to go back to school.
“I think that it was finally time for me to pursue my own education,” said Varner.
She wanted to be an example for her children, showing them that determination and perseverance are important at any age.
Varner, who now lives in Washougal, began attending classes at Clark College, focusing on public health and social services. She committed herself to school, continuing to volunteer and graduating with a 3.98 overall grade point average.
At Clark’s graduation ceremony in June, Varner was awarded the Community College President’s Scholarship in Honor of Val Ogden. It pays full-time tuition and fees for two years at Washington State University-Vancouver.
The scholarship is awarded to one student per year who demonstrates a commitment to community service.
During the ceremony, Clark College President Robert K. Knight explained Varner has been an asset to the school and its students.
“When people describe this year’s recipient, they talk about her leadership, her positive attitude and her strong organizational skills,” he said. “During her time at Clark, she has helped enrich our community through her tireless volunteer work. She has helped provide Thanksgiving dinner baskets to hungry students, clothe homeless veterans, and crochet hats for cancer patients.”
Also graduating from Clark was Varner’s oldest son Jonathan, 18, who completed the Running Start program while attending Washougal High School.
Varner said she was proud to see her son placing value in his education.
Knight said Varner has been an incredible role model to her son.
“I have no doubt that she will use this scholarship to become a role model to many others as well,” he said.
Varner is anxious to begin attending classes at WSUV on Aug. 22.
“I’m looking forward to moving on into WSUV,” she said. “It’s a really exciting time.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree, Varner plans to pursue master’s and doctorate degrees in social work.