Monday, March 10, 2008

I did it! I finally came out of the closet!!!

Mother of two gets high school degree
Recent graduate, 48-year-old Lynda Kraar, is the valedictorian of her class.

Teaneck Suburbanite , March 5, 2008

Mom proves it’s never too late to earn a GED

48-year-old Lynda Kraar decides to pursue her high school diploma

By Pilar Aragon

For those approaching the half-century mark, a mid-life crisis may be looming. But that doesn’t mean you should be turning in your family’s SUV for a Porsche or seeking Oprah’s latest makeover. It might just mean that it’s time to go back to school like Lynda Kraar, of Teaneck, did to get her GED.

“To those who say your hair is gray, you’ve had your best years, your race is run, make room for the new ones, I say, “Do not go gentle into that good night,” said Kraar, [quoting poet Dylan Thomas].

At the age of 48, Kraar has set her sights on getting an associate degree in fine arts for music at Bergen Community College (BCC) after getting her GED this past February 14, the day of her father’s birthday and almost five months after his death.

Nowadays, working on class assignments is a task she shares with her two teenage daughters, Yona, 14, and Miriam, 18.

“She’s a fantastic role model,” says Kraar’s oldest daughter who is a high school senior.

When asked about watching her mom give her valedictorian speech as she received her high school diploma at BCC, she responded, “It was inspirational to see our mom up there.”

“The family was very supportive,” said Marty Kraar, Kraar’s husband of 11 years. “She’ll never have to look back and say, 'I wish I had', because she did.”

Kraar’s high school education ended in the late 1970s when there was a teachers’ strike in her hometown of Toronto, in Canada. The teachers went back, but Kraar never did.

Unlike her parents who were Holocaust survivors from Poland with minimal education – her father was illiterate and her mother’s formal education ended when the Nazis forced Jewish children out of the schools – Kraar has had many opportunities including a career as a musician, journalist, music teacher and a non-profit professional specializing in communications and fundraising. Kraar and her husband recently launched a new business in Fort Lee, Kraar Associates, a consulting firm for the non-profit sector.

Despite her professional accomplishments, Kraar felt unfulfilled because she lacked formal education. After her husband became the executive vice president of the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science, she was surrounded by professionals who had multiple degrees.

“I was living deep in the closet and feeling very inadequate surrounded by people who had built their academic careers into fortresses of knowledge,” Kraar said. “I was afraid I would be found out.”

After Kraar’s mother died in 2005 and her father was placed in a nursing home, she decided it was time for her to reclaim her life and to do things she always wanted to do such as go back to school.

Most of the students in Kraar’s GED class were immigrants who never had the opportunity to finish their high school education, but were seeking to better themselves.

“She was an inspiration to everyone,” said Liz Murakhovsky, Kraar’s instructor. “Lynda was very open and honest about her needs and educational goals.”

Kraar’s next goal includes having her mother’s wartime memoir published in Canada later this year.

Photo Caption: Working on class assignments is a task Lynda Kraar, 48, shares with her two teenage daughters, Yona, 14, and Miriam, 18. Kraar is valedictorian of her Bergen Community College class, earning her GED this past Feb. 14. (Pilar Aragon photo)