These adult students made the decision to go back to school and succeed at their goals. Let them inspire you to do the same!
Post-divorce: Juggling school, job, kids—and making it work
A couple of years ago, when Danette Smith looked into her future, she saw a long, empty, dead-end road looming ahead of her. She was divorced, had two young children, and her job as a customer service rep wasn’t going anywhere. “I didn’t know what was next. I just knew there had to be more than this, and that I had to give my children a better life,” she says.
A good friend talked her into enrolling at Monroe Community College.
Danette knew it wouldn’t be easy. She had one child in school, one in daycare. But she says, “It was much easier to do well in school this time around. Even when I had trouble—like in math—the professors worked with me and would stay after class with me till it sunk in.”
Danette helped balance her hectic schedule with some night and online classes. She also worked part time, taking advantage of the federal work-study program to help fund some of her tuition. “I had no idea there were so many financial aid programs available for adult students,” she says.
Danette received her AS degree in liberal arts, and is now pursuing a nursing degree at Nazareth College. “A few years ago, if you’d told me this would have all been possible, I wouldn’t have believed you,” she says. “And if I can succeed, you can too.”
First in her family to get a degree
Debbie Farley was always a bit embarrassed that she didn’t have a college degree. Most of her friends had one, and her husband did, too. But none of her siblings had ever gone to college, and she was never encouraged to do so.
“I’d had a good career in telecommunications sales, but when the telecom industry fell apart, I kept getting laid off,” she says. “And without a degree, I simply couldn’t compete. An employment consultant told me that I needed a degree if I ever wanted to compete in the work force again. It was time to go back to school.”
Debbie says at first it was hard, but then she got into a routine and is getting great grades. She started by taking a couple of classes, then more as her confidence grew. “I never did this well in high school,” she says. “I go to college with a hunger to learn. I can’t remember my teachers ever taking such an interest in me the way my MCC teachers have.”
Debbie is working on an associate’s degree in health information management, and she plans to continue on for her bachelor’s degree—maybe even a master’s. “You’re never too old to get a good education,” she says. “It changes your life.”
An associate’s degree, then a bachelor’s, in two years flat
After Bob Segave graduated high school in 1980, he went straight to college. But it just didn’t work out—he wasn’t focused, and he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. So he dropped out and hit the job market instead.
“I worked my way up the ladder as a purchasing/warehouse manager for a major health supply company,” he says. “But then the bubble burst. I had topped out professionally, both in terms of advancement and earnings, and I couldn’t go any further.”
He watched the best jobs go to younger people who had college degrees. “Even though I had more experience, I kept losing out. Employers wanted that degree,” he says.
Bob’s wife encouraged him to go back to school. Bob found out about MCC’s adult learning department, and chose a fast-track program in conjunction with Roberts Wesleyan that helped him get both an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree in about two years. “I was able to get credit for my prior college classes, plus credit for life experience,” he says. “They helped me lay out a plan and held my hand the whole way.”
A special needs child opens her eyes to a new career possibility
Maria Mercedes Ruiz, 37, has a special needs child. In the process of caring for her daughter, Maria discovered her life’s true calling: Running an agency for infants and toddlers who are disabled.
Laid off from her job in 2005, Maria knew she wanted to do something different. She’d already been passed over for several promotions because she didn’t have the education. And she really wasn’t fulfilled by the type of banking work she was doing.
Maria decided to go back to school to major in early childhood education. “I needed to learn how to talk to doctors on their level, learn to do research, and learn to write grants,” she says. Maria takes all her classes at MCC’s downtown Damon City Campus. “I love it there,” she says.
She has some words of advice for adults who are considering going back to school. “Go for it,” she says. “Even if you can only do it part time, take that one course per semester. It keeps your brain going, and it’s not as scary as you think.”
Service for his country, college for himself
Randy Morse, 52, went straight into the Navy after high school. College was not on his agenda then. But he always had an interest in the law. After 33 years of jobs as an engineer at Kodak and RGE, he decided to pursue his passion.
“I started off at a four-year school, and hated it,” he says. “It was a big mistake. I didn’t fit in, and it left me with a lot of doubts about whether I could do it.”
But he decided to give college a second try at MCC and enrolled in their criminal justice program. “I got to know people, and there were fantastic opportunities to get experience in the legal field. They even gave me 52 credit hours for my military experience.”
Randy went on to win several awards at MCC, and he plans to become a lobbyist for veteran’s rights. He credits MCC’s leadership programs and student government opportunities for his success. “You couldn’t ask for a better school than MCC,” he says.
New career, new opportunities
At 35, Chuck DiSalvo was ready for a career change. He had spent almost 20 years in the automotive industry and wanted new skills. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, so he went to MCC’s counseling department. “The advisers there really helped with my career choice. They have courses and tests to help you decide what you want to do and what you’re good at.”
Chuck realized that he wanted a career in security management. Since 2001, he has completed an associate’s degree at MCC, a bachelor’s degree at St. John Fisher, and is now working on a master’s degree through an online university. “Whenever adults talk to me about going back to school, I tell them to go to MCC,” he says. “It’s friendly, you’ll feel at home, and you’ll find lots of other students like you. It’s really the ‘community’ in ‘community college.’ ”
Advice from MCC students
• “Pace yourself. Set up a schedule that works for you. The key is to prioritize–and to recognize that some days you won’t get through everything in one night.”
• “Take the free tests and courses in the counseling center. They’ll help you figure out what you want to do.”
• “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The professors are there to help you.”
• “Develop a support system—family, friends, neighbors—and use it.”
• “Don’t worry about how much you’ll make or what you’ll do with your degree. Just get started.”
• “If you’re not sure, try taking one or two courses to test the waters first.”
• “Go for it. You can do it.”