Page County resident Dominika Seal spent much of her life globetrotting, but when it came time to further her education, she didn’t have to leave her own backyard – thanks to the Luray-Page County Center she was able to obtain her associate of science degree days before turning 40.
Born to German parents living in New York City, Seal spent much of her early years in Manhattan. When her father, a civil engineer, was transferred back to Germany, she, her mother and brother went along. In Germany, she learned the language and traveled to other countries.
Another transfer sent the family back to New York, but this time they settled in New Jersey, which is where Seal attended high school.
“As soon as I graduated from high school, right back to the city I went,” she said.
For a time, Seal studied at Marymount Manhattan College, but when her father became very ill, she left college so she could help the family, and got a position with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.
During this time, she would travel to Luray where a family friend had a bed-and-breakfast, and where she could also indulge her passion for airplanes. The friend introduced her to a flight instructor, and Seal decided to move to Luray to obtain her pilot’s license and get a job.
When her brother attended Georgetown University and decided to stay in the area, Seal opted to settle here permanently. That was 25 years ago. In the meantime, she met her husband, Kevin, a fellow pilot.
For 15 years, Seal has worked as a deputy at the Page County Jail.
“I always said, I want to go back and finish my degree,” she said. “When the Luray-Page County Center (LPCC) opened in Luray in 2006, I thought, I should really do this.”
Still, she was nervous about going back to school 20 years after graduating from high school.
“I finally was brave enough and went and talked to an advisor in 2009,” Seal said.
At that time, she set a goal for herself of obtaining her associate degree before turning 40 in summer 2010. To make more time for classes so she could meet her goal, she scaled her work back to part-time.
“I’ve been so impressed with Lord Fairfax and how it operates and how helpful everybody is,” she said. “We’re not just numbers as students. And, it has a great reputation because more and more people are realizing we have this community college where we can further our education and see where it goes.
“More and more people aren’t afraid to go back to school, and I think Laurel Ridge Community College has done a lot for that. You feel welcome, regardless of what your background is.”
While some of the younger students would help her with technology, she would give them assistance with math.
Seal received her diploma two days before her milestone birthday. But, she wasn’t done yet. Seal decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree, enrolling at what was then Mary Baldwin College and is now Mary Baldwin University. Mary Baldwin representatives had come to the LPCC to discuss transfer opportunities.
While attending Mary Baldwin to study criminal justice, which was a new degree program there, Seal tutored Laurel Ridge students at the LPCC. Even though she’s back to work full-time at the jail, she still tutors.
This past May, Seal received her bachelor’s degree. Along the way, she earned a second associate degree, this one in business administration, from Laurel Ridge in 2013. A few months later, she also earned a careers studies certificate in administration of justice from Laurel Ridge.
Seal’s not done learning, and not done with the LPCC. She is looking into teaching developmental math there, and into getting a master’s degree so she can become an instructor in criminal justice.
“Anytime you’re at the Luray-Page County Center, everybody is helpful,” Seal said. “I felt welcome to be one of the non-traditional students who came back to school. No matter who I talk, to, whether it’s students or faculty, it’s a big family. And it’s just wonderful to be a part of that.”
The LPCC has had a tremendous impact on Seal’s life and future.
“If it hadn’t been for Laurel Ridge opening the LPCC, then who knows what opportunities I might have missed,” she said. “It was great being able to take my classes in Luray where I live and work. Having that convenience made a huge difference.”
Seal has set herself another goal: obtain her master’s degree by the time she’s 50. She has three years.
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.