Once word got around that he knew some things about Broward College that the other students didn’t, Larry Jones developed a reputation as the go-to-guy in class. When a door needed fixing or the lights weren’t working, the professors sought out Larry. If things in the class got too heated, everyone turned to Larry to take a look at the air-conditioning. Even his wife took it upon herself to chime in, asking him to do something about a bees’ nest, she saw hanging from a campus drain.

Not only was Larry always happy to help, but he was also obliged. By day, the 54-year-old works as a facilities manager at Broward College. Later in the evening, when he changes into a polo shirt, shorts, and flip-flops, Larry joins his wife, Carolyn, as students. This fall (2019), the couple will walk down the aisle again to receive degrees: Larry, a bachelor’s degree in Supervision and Management; Carolyn Garreau-Jones, an associate degree in Paralegal Studies.

Larry and Carolyn
Larry Jones and Carolyn Garreau-Jones

Although they are joined at the hip, Larry and Carolyn took different paths to their degrees during the night. Larry started at Broward College six years ago, juggling work with two classes each semester. Carolyn returned to school after earning a bachelor’s degree from Nova Southeastern in 2005. An eighth-grade science teacher at Howell L Watkins Middle School in Palm Beach Gardens, she met Larry at a Texas Holdem poker tournament.

“He was cute,” said Carolyn. “He seemed like he had his act together.”

Larry planned to go to college when he graduated Pompano High School, but his parents couldn’t afford to pay his college tuition.

“I was down and out for a while,” said Larry. “I kept seeing people I graduated with getting better jobs.”

Larry didn’t stray far from college. He went to work at Florida Atlantic University before joining the Broward College facilities management staff in 2012.

“I always wanted to use my hands,” said Larry. “I just love maintenance. A different problem pops up every day: roof leaks, bathroom issues. Our job is to solve problems. People think I’m crazy, but I feel like I haven’t worked in 15 years. I don’t consider this a job.”

When Larry learned of Broward College’s tuition reimbursement plan, his responsibilities took on added meaning.

“I’m thinking, I work at a college,” said Larry. “There’s no reason I can’t get a better education.”

But attending evening classes after long days at work was arduous for both Larry and Carolyn.

“The days became a lot longer,” said Carolyn. “I never had a chance to come home after teaching. When I left in the morning, I had to make sure I had everything I needed to get through the day.”

When they did return home, Carolyn went to the east side of the home to study, Larry to the west wing.

“She helped me more with classes than I helped her,” said Larry, who will graduate with a 3.7 grade-point average, magna cum laude; Carolyn a perfect 4.0. “She’s a lot smarter than me.”

Both had the determination and willingness to persevere. And on December 6, they will celebrate together. As an accredited paralegal, Carolyn will officially become a guardian for her grandmother, who is battling dementia. Larry will be the first in his family to graduate from college. His parents are “stunned” with pride; his colleagues at Broward College awed and inspired. The doors and windows Larry spent a career repairing have finally opened.

“It feels really good,” said Larry, holding back tears. “You can’t get anywhere in life without a degree. I’ve waited my entire life for this.”

Whether you’re a traditional or a non-traditional student, a first-generation in college student, or from an underserved community, Broward College offers a wide range of day and evening classes – plus an online option – that can be both affordable and accessible.