A Degree a Long Time in the Making

Lisa Cramer Family

Lisa Cramer is within a year from realizing a lifelong dream to complete her college degree in Diagnostic Ultrasound. Her path to this accomplishment however, has been anything but linear.

Cramer grew up in what she describes as an idyllic setting in Laguna Beach, California. Summer days were spent on the beach. Her father was a geneticist, her mother a nurse. Life took a surprising turn for Cramer just after high school when instead of pursuing a college degree, she joined a rather restrictive church based in the Pacific Northwest.

“I was only 17. I was about to graduate from high school, and I wasn’t sure what my next step would be,” said Cramer. “(This church) offered me a challenge – and young people love a challenge – to give up everything to follow God. They offered a very close community and seemed to have a recipe for how to live life.”  

For the next 17 years, Cramer followed the church rules: no TV, no movies, no radio, no newspaper, no alcohol, and no worldly ambitions – which included college. Cramer met her husband in the church and they had five children. But eventually, the rules felt too limiting. 

“As it turned out, they were a very close community as long as you agreed with them,” she said. “Once questions were asked, or ideas were challenged, the group used typical shunning tactics. Phone calls stopped. Visits stopped…That church was home. We had been taught that the world was evil and that we were special chosen people.”  

Cramer decided that despite the church’s warning about the outside world, perhaps there was more good out there than bad. “I still remember looking out my kitchen window one night, across the valley, seeing all the twinkling lights and cars moving along the roads, and thinking ‘there’s a whole world out there to experience and I know there’s a whole lot of love out there,’” she said. 

She and her husband decided to leave, and Cramer focused on raising her children. They did a lot of alternative education, home-school, co-ops, Running Start, and Bellevue College’s CEO program. “One mistake I made that I did not want our children repeating, was missing out on a college education,” she said.  

Cramer began taking college classes herself in 2004, but she found out during an unusual later-term ultrasound that her sixth child had a heart condition that would require immediate attention. 

“I will never forget the sonographer who discovered our daughter’s heart condition,” she said. “She is the one who found the abnormality which led to me being hospitalized to treat our daughter’s condition. The sonographer had a huge responsibility, but also, in our case, provided a lifesaving service.”  

That type of service appealed to Cramer and she began to consider the possibilities of a career in ultrasound.  

Cramer continued working on her prerequisites. Her first application for the diagnostic ultrasound program didn’t make the cut, but she was undeterred. On her second application, she was wait-listed. Then her phone rang. It was from Suzanne Lane, the program manager. A student had to withdraw their application. Cramer was in.  

“I sit in my classes and over and over again say to myself, ‘I can’t believe I am here.’ I have been slowly working toward this dream for 15 years!” said Cramer.  

She noted that the college has played a big role in her life, and that of her family. “Four of our six kids are BC alumni,” Cramer said. “The classes I have taken at Bellevue College have changed me. I have become more open minded and inclusive. I have broadened my worldview and my critical thinking has sharpened. Those are not things I want to protect my children from. Those are all things I wish for my children.” 

Cramer hopes to be able to use her training and eventual experience to volunteer in communities of need. “My amazing kids are grown and independent and I have the freedom to travel. Whatever I do, and wherever I go, I will always give credit to Bellevue College and the staff for giving me this education and opportunity,” she said.  

Last Updated January 11, 2021