Connie Albers was proud when her oldest son excelled as an engineering student at UCF. And, a year later, just as happy when her oldest daughter found a home at the University of Central Florida. Then, her third child. And her fourth.
On Saturday, Jonathan Albers – her fifth child – will graduate, topping off a family of Knights that has had one or more children at UCF for 11 years straight – including one stretch with three at once.
“It is such a good school,” Connie said. “I had five very different learners with different interests and skillsets, and each one received a great education. UCF has something for everyone.”
The Albers family, she said, is an example of how UCF’s size and scale can provide the right fit for every type of student. It’s also an example of how a large university with top-notch support services, committed faculty and staff, and clubs can feel like a small, friendly place.
The college years started for Connie and Tom Albers’ family when their oldest son Paul enrolled at UCF in 2005. Like many parents whose children are starting a new life chapter, Connie worried about her son’s safety and whether he would find a good college experience.
Paul’s time at UCF put her worries to rest. Jeannie followed in 2006, Tyler in 2008, Jaclyn in 2011 and Jonathan in 2012.
They each followed different paths. Paul, 30, majored in mechanical engineering. Jeannie, 29, studied fitness training and hospitality management. Tyler, 26, attended the College of Business and majored in management. Jaclyn, 24, double majored in hospitality management and restaurant management.
“It may be a big campus, but you’ll find your niche,” Connie said. “You’ll find your community, and in your community you’ll thrive.”
When Jonathan graduates on his 23rd birthday, he’ll leave with a degree in human communication with minors in marketing and leadership studies. Jonathan joins roughly 7,900 students graduating from UCF on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“It’s neat that we all had that bonding experience – we all went to the same school, the same university,” said Jonathan, who played just about every intramural sport when he wasn’t in class or studying. In fact, he and Jaclyn teamed up to become intramural cornhole champions two years in a row.
With help from their parents, scholarships and part-time jobs, all of them graduated without student debt. They also saved by living at home and carpooled to campus from Winter Garden.
“Those newbies who were coming in and struggling to adapt to college life…they had an older sibling who could say, ‘I had that professor and they were really good,’ or ‘I took this class and I really learned a lot,’” Connie said. “That was really valuable for my family.”
“I was able to help the other kids around the campus as they came, so it was kind of an extension of our home,” Jeannie said.
The Alberses already were a close-knit family, but the siblings said their shared experience at UCF brought them even closer together.
“Usually you’d think you would try to get away from your family when you go to school, but it was so much more beneficial,” Tyler said.