ECTC alumnus finds success through challenges | ECTC

ECTC alumnus finds success through challenges

January 17, 2024

As a single mother raising four children with no outside financial support, Suzanne Petraska knew that she had to find some way to provide for her family. She found the answer at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College.  

“I wanted to make sure my children were provided for properly and set on a good pathway,” she said. “I knew that I couldn’t expect a significant salary increase unless I refreshed my skillset.”  

Petraska was working with at-risk youth at the Bluegrass Challenge Academy when she returned to school, and she credits their influence with her decision.

“I always told the cadets that education was so important, that integrity is valuable, and you have to a goal and commit to it,” she said. “I figured I might as well take my own advice and lead by example, to show that a little step forward is better than no step.”  

She initially came to ECTC for the Greater Knox Coding Academy in 2021, which was an intense, advanced computer programming course that lasted over four months. After graduating from there and earning 24 credit hours, she decided to stay at the college to continue her education, graduating in December 2023 with both an associate in applied science in computer information technology (CIT), information security track, and associate in arts.  

“I love challenges and I’m very analytical and detail oriented,” she said. “CIT is definitely the future. I’m already gainfully employed with the federal government, but I’d like to continue my education and get a bachelor's degree in cyber security. I like that, because of ECTC’s collaboration with Northern Kentucky University and Bellevue University, credit hours are easily transferable.”

In addition to her education and work, Petraska also runs a small farm for rescue horses. She was a mounted police officer in Michigan and used her experience to co-found the Hardin County Mounted Search and Rescue.  

“Horses are therapy,” she said. “They offer peace of mind and I take pleasure in helping them. Many are used for equine therapy. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Petraska’s two oldest children have attended ECTC as well. Her son, Cody, followed the same path, graduating last spring with an associate in applied science in CIT, programming track, and an associate in arts. Daughter, Morgan, is on track to graduate in May 2024 with a degree in criminal justice. Petraska also has 14-year-old twin boys – Devon and Dylan. She’s proud of the fact that she maintained a 4.0 grade-point average while raising her children, putting two through college, going through a divorce and running a horse farm.  

“I’ve always been strong willed,” she said. “If someone tells me no, I will figure out a way to make it work. I’m not intimidated by challenges. You have to formulate how to overcome them, then just move forward.”

Petraska chose ECTC because it’s local, affordable, and offered the same quality of courses she could get at a university.

“So why not stay here?” she said. “All of the teachers were understanding and willing to work with me. Because they took time to listen, they were better equipped to guide me down the right path both professionally and personally.”

Suzanne Petraska