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Chief Petty Officer Arthur King, left, and Petty Officer 1st Class Kristi Moon, earned degrees Friday through Touro University International in California. Both had been working toward degrees since 2005.

Chief Petty Officer Arthur King, left, and Petty Officer 1st Class Kristi Moon, earned degrees Friday through Touro University International in California. Both had been working toward degrees since 2005. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

Chief Petty Officer Arthur King, left, and Petty Officer 1st Class Kristi Moon, earned degrees Friday through Touro University International in California. Both had been working toward degrees since 2005.

Chief Petty Officer Arthur King, left, and Petty Officer 1st Class Kristi Moon, earned degrees Friday through Touro University International in California. Both had been working toward degrees since 2005. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

Graduates at the ceremony in Naples, Italy.

Graduates at the ceremony in Naples, Italy. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

Joe Komenkul videos Friday's graduation ceremony and waits for his wife, Suerjee Lee, to walk across the stage.

Joe Komenkul videos Friday's graduation ceremony and waits for his wife, Suerjee Lee, to walk across the stage. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

(Sandra Jontz / S&S)

Suerjee Lee, right, makes sure Misty Owens' gown and accessories are perfect before they head to their graduation ceremony, held Friday at the U.S. Navy Capodichino base. Both graduated from the University of Oklahoma with Masters degrees in human relations.

Suerjee Lee, right, makes sure Misty Owens' gown and accessories are perfect before they head to their graduation ceremony, held Friday at the U.S. Navy Capodichino base. Both graduated from the University of Oklahoma with Masters degrees in human relations. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

NAPLES, Italy — Until Friday, Suerjee Lee was “just a mommy,” as she puts it.

Now, the 27-year-old mother of two holds a master’s degree in human relations from the University of Oklahoma, with hopes of becoming a social worker or counselor.

“I can say I’ve done something for my future,” said Lee, who has been taking courses since January of 2007 at the OU campus in Naples.

It wasn’t easy juggling life as a wife, mother of a 21-month-old and a 4-month old, and a college student.

But on Friday, Lee and 198 other students earned degrees from 16 universities and institutions, some on campuses and others online or through distance learning programs. Of the 199, 59 attended a ceremony Friday in the theater at the Capodichino base to “walk” across the stage and collect their diplomas and certificates.

“This is an advancement that has not come easily,” for the adult students, said Capt. Robert Rabuse, the base’s commanding officer and keynote speaker. His parting advice to those who’d advanced their careers by earning degrees: “Don’t procrastinate, think before you speak and act, but by all means, take action.”

For four years, Chief Petty Officer Arthur King had been taking one class at a time to earn his degree in business administration from Touro University International, based in California.

“I’m going to take this to the civilian sector when I retire in a few years,” said the 36-year-old.

“Today is just the end of one chapter and the beginning of another for me,” said Misty Owen, mother of a 2-month-old and the ombudsman for the USS Mount Whitney, the 6th Fleet flagship based in Gaeta, Italy, about an hour’s drive from Naples.

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