Mother Daughter Graduation

Katelyn and Elysa Nason pause for a photo at Eastern Oregon University on Thursday, June 3, 2021. The mother and daughter duo graduate this year.

LA GRANDE — Katelyn Nason was ending her eighth grade year in the La Grande School District in April of 2018 when her mother Elysa received a message that changed the trajectory of her life.

Elysa Nason learned that she had been admitted into the Oregon Health & Science University School of Nursing, La Grande Campus. The mother of five told her family she planned to graduate with a degree in nursing in three years.

Two weeks later Katelyn made a decision which will forever touch her mom. The teenager decided to hit the academic fast track and graduate from La Grande High School in three years so she could receive her diploma about the same time as her mother.

“She said ‘Mom, I’m graduating with you,’ ‘’ Elysa Nason said.

Katelyn made her decision as a gesture of gratitude.

“I wanted to honor my mom,’’ Katelyn Nason said.

Katelyn, burning midnight oil by the gallon, began traveling in the fast lane of LHS’s commencement highway. The student, after having her plan approved by school officials, began taking class loads which would cause some lesser students to buckle.

“There were a lot of long days and nights,’’ said Katelyn, who took classes online via the La Grande School District’s Learning Academy and on her high school’s campus.

Some encouraged her to ease up on her throttle and burn a little less rubber on her way to LHS’s commencement stage.

“I said, ‘I don’t care, I’m going to do it,’’’ Katelyn said.

Buoyed by determination and family support she completed four years of class work in three and on Saturday, June 5, received her diploma at LHS’s commencement.

“I am so proud of her,’’ Elysa said.

Three days from now Elysa will fulfill her end of the heartfelt mother-daughter pact when she will receive her nursing degree from OHSU on Saturday, June 12. The OHSU School of Nursing, La Grande Campus, commencement will be conducted in conjunction with Eastern Oregon University’s ceremony. The two are closely linked since the nursing program has been based on Eastern’s campus since it was founded more than three decades ago.

Elysa said that being a full-time mom with a family of five children and a full-time nursing student has been an uncommon challenge the past three years.

“I honestly don’t know how I did it,’’ said Elysa, who graduated from EOU in 2018 with a bachelor of science degree in psychology.

She credits support and help from her husband, Joseph, with making a big difference.

“He has been our biggest fan,’’ Elysa said.

Elysa, in the course of her studies, has inspired Katelyn to also pursue a career in nursing. Katelyn became interested in the field after reading one of her nursing textbooks.

“She has found her passion,’’ Elysa said.

Elysa said her daughter’s early graduation gesture is especially meaningful because she had her at a young age when she believes she was not ready to be the best mother she could be.

“I was a teenage mom. I felt like I was a failure. This makes me feel like I’ve done something right,’’ Elysa Nason said.

She has already received three job offers in the nursing field and plans to work in Northeast Oregon. Elysa is excited about starting her career and also about the chance to spend more time with her sons and daughters after three years of intense study in nursing school.

“I will get to be a mom again,’’ Elysa said.

Dick Mason is a reporter with The Observer primarily covering the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

General assignment reporter

Beats include the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

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