Ivy Tech grad pushes past adversity to path of helping others

A Hope woman has been through enough heartbreak for multiple lifetimes, but she hasn’t allowed that to slow her down.

As proof, Joetta Adams will receive an associate degree Saturday from Ivy Tech Community College — Columbus.

Adams, 47, enrolled at Ivy Tech in 2012 but admitted that earlier adversity and self-doubt made her wonder if she could see it through.

A son, Joshua Bailey, whose lungs couldn’t function properly, lived for just 13 days in 1987.

Additionally, Adams went through several abusive relationships, which led to depression. She said she thought abuse in a relationship was normal.

Besides her infant son, Adams said she has lost 28 friends and family to death throughout her life, including some losses in recent years that have cut deep.

Her uncle, Lloyd Wayne Dyer, who had encouraged her and was looking forward to seeing her graduate, died in a motorcycle accident last July.

But even with as many people as she has lost, Adams knows she has so many more in her corner.

They include her mother, Betty Thurman, and sons, Kirk Adams, 30, and Dereck Adams, 24, who give her encouragement and keep her motivated.

In her three years at Ivy Tech, Adams has transformed herself into a leader and mentor for her fellow students, personally flourishing in a world in which Adams said she never thought she would belong.

She initially went back to school to major in accounting in order to help her mother with her taxes. But she developed interest in other classes beyond accounting. One of those was Communication 101 with professor Phil Martinez.

There’s a world of difference from where Adams was back in 2012 to where she is now, Martinez said.

“She credits me with helping her, but she did all the work,” Martinez said. “All I did was nudge her a little bit. She’s the one that pulled herself up.”

Adams learned while at Ivy Tech that accounting and tax preparation are separate areas of study. Despite her original intention, she said, she never did end up taking a tax class.

On Saturday, Adams will accept her associate degree in accounting then transfer to Trine University — which also operates on the Columbus Learning Center campus — to obtain a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

Adams said she wants to work as a cold-case criminal investigator.

While going to college, Adams took on a role as Ivy Tech site coordinator in Greensburg, working with students on guidance and financial aid.

“I want to help make a difference in their lives,” she said.

Martinez encouraged Adams to be a peer mentor, and she found there were many areas where she could help.

Adams said she feels she has experiences and skills to help others avoid the wrong path.

“I wanted to make a difference in their lives,” she said. “I guess I just wanted to be the mother figure in their lives.”

Adams also has made wholesale changes to her life. She no longer drinks alcohol and goes to church every Sunday at East Columbus Christian Church on Indiana Avenue.

Also, Adams has been in a relationship with Craig Robertson, 47, for the past 17 years.

“For the first time in my life, I’m proud of who I am and where I’m going,” Adams said.

Ivy Tech graduation

The Ivy Tech Community College — Columbus will graduate 625 students with 884 degrees at the annual commencement ceremony 10 a.m. Saturday at Franklin Community Middle School, 625 Grizzly Club Drive, Franklin.

Ivy Tech President Tom Snyder will address the graduates and confer the degrees and certificates.

An honorary Associate of Science degree will be given to Brian Payne, director of the Columbus Municipal Airport, for his service to the Columbus campus.  

Delaram Moghaddam, recipient of the Distinguished Alumna Award, will be recognized.