YOUNGSTOWN - It is a week one local family will always cherish, as moms, daughters, aunts, nieces and cousins completed their studies, most walking across the stage on the same day.
"Man, May couldn't get any better for the family," Rebecca Litowitz of Boardman said with a chuckle prior to Saturday's commencement ceremony at YSU. For Litowitz, her bachelor's degree in general studies was a long time coming. And walking hand in hand with her daughter, Addie, and her niece, Colleen Alflen of Niles, meant it could not have come at a better time.
"Through the years, every so often, we would talk about her going back to school, and it just never fit," said her husband, Pat.
Tribune Chronicle / Bonnie Hazen
Seven local women from the same family graduated this month, six from college and one from high school. Shown are five who graduated Saturday from Youngstown State University. From left, are Addie Litowitz and Rebecca Litowitz, who each earned bachelor’s degrees; Heather Bayless, earning her master’s in nursing; Colleen Alflen, who earned a bachelor’s; and Heidi Alflen, who earned a master’s in nursing.
Rebecca Litowitz started her academic journey at YSU in 1986, where she majored in music education. While she excelled in vocals, playing the piano was a challenge for her.
"For some people it's not hard, but for someone who only started playing piano when she went to college, it was difficult," she said.
She spent months and months practicing.
For her piano jury, she was required to read an open orchestral score - a piece that a conductor sees, she explained.
"They tell you to read three or four lines of that. I just couldn't do it," she said, and she failed her piano jury.
After that, she took a break from college life. She got married, had her daughter, and then "life happened."
"It's hard because once you get out of school and you start having kids ... it's hard to take time for yourself to do what you have to do. It's the hardest thing to walk away and not have that accomplished," she said.
Now, she is finishing what she set out to do more than 25 years later. And she's doing it with her family by her side.
Rebecca Litowitz received her bachelor's in general studies from YSU; her daughter, Addie, received a bachelor's in English from YSU; her niece, Colleen Alflen, received a bachelor's in respiratory care from YSU; her sisters-in-law, twin sisters, Heidi Alflen and Heather Bayless, received their master's in nursing from YSU; Bayless' daughter, Kayla, received her bachelor's in political science from the University of Akron; and Alflen's daughter, Cylie, is the Niles High School valedictorian and prom queen.
Cylie Alflen has also taken several classes at YSU. She was a recipient of a college scholarship and will be attending John Carroll University.
"She's beautiful, she's talented, she's the whole package. We're really proud of her," Rebecca Litowitz said.
Cylie Alflen said, "I'm happy for everyone. It's awesome to be graduating the same year as everyone else."
"My dad always supported me in high school and college, and he even made sure that we bought a piano so that we could practice at home. It was letting him down and letting myself down, those regrets," said Rebecca Litowitz, the first of her siblings to obtain her degree.
Pat Litowitz said, "It wasn't so much about the piece of paper, it was about an accomplishment."