Mother of two goes back for college degree thirty years later: ‘you should never lose hope’

Jaclyn Holtz, Reporter

Domestic violence survivor, Venezuelan immigrant and parent of two, Sophie Sassounian will fulfill her dream of receiving a bachelor’s degree this year, thanks to the support of the California Lutheran University community.

After almost 30 years of being out of school, Sassounian said she felt that “it was a promise I had to keep or fulfill, not just to myself, but to those, I couldn’t let down. Those around me who knew I wanted to go back to school.”

While at Cal Lutheran, Sassounian studied psychology and now is striving to attain her master’s degree. She has teaching experience at private schools in Los Angeles and hopes to become a professor at a community college. 

Sassounian began her journey at Cal Lutheran in the spring of 2018, completing her studies in the fall of 2019. Sassounian will walk with the class of 2020. 

“All of the professors are amazing. They work with us students and help us succeed both academically and personally. I have grown as an individual at Cal Lu,” Sassounian said. 

Sassounian loves the community that is fostered at Cal Lutheran, even Gumby has his arms open like he wants to welcome and hug you, Sassounian said. 

One of her biggest inspirations, when she went back to school, was Patricia Wright, a psychology professor at Cal Lutheran. She was inspired by her hands-on teaching style and all that she had achieved in her own work. 

Sassounian, however, never expected to find herself at Cal Lutheran. 

While working at the BMW dealership in Westlake Village, Sassounian met the former president of Pepperdine University, Andrew Benton. She expressed her hopes of going back to school, and Benton asked her what she was waiting for, urging her not to wait too long. 

When she was searching for a school, one of her friends mentioned Cal Lutheran to her. Sassounian said she never knew that there was such a beautiful university tucked in Thousand Oaks. 

After speaking with admissions counselors, Sassounian felt a unique connection with Cal Lutheran that she did not get at any of the other universities she had visited. 

At Cal Lutheran she found everyone to be very kind and welcoming, Sassounian said.

“Something inside just told me, go to Cal Lutheran,” Sassounian said. “When I walked onto campus, it was like, this is it.”

Sassounian immigrated to the United States from Venezuela only knowing Spanish, but her passion for education helped her push through to receive her associate’s degree from East Los Angeles College, and begin her pursuit of a bachelor’s degree at California State University, Los Angeles. 

Two semesters before completing her degree at California State University, Los Angeles, Sassounian got married. Despite her own aspirations, her husband did not support her furthering her education. Sassounian decided it was time to go back to school. 

“Don’t make excuses, you need to take care of yourself,” Sassouian said. “You should never lose hope.” 

Sassounian found healing in her passion for schooling. From an early age she loved the environment that school provided her with, Sassounian said. 

“I think it is very motivating that people can be so inspired to go back to school and finish what they love,” first-year Madisyn Morin said. 

Sassounian faced obstacles while attaining her degree, but her family, including her two sons Darone and Kristapor, and friends inspired her to achieve her goals. 

When she sets her mind to something, she does it, Sassounian said, of herself. One of the phrases that embody her desire to accomplish her goals is “the desire to keep moving forward” Sassounian said. 

“If you set your mind to do something, nothing is gonna stop you from doing it, no matter how old you are,” Sassounian said. “The spirit does not have an age.”