I started going to Temple University in 1989 but had to leave to help out at home when my father passed and my mother was ill. To help with money I took a job as a Philadelphia Corrections Officer.
Almost twenty years later, I walked into Graduate! Philadelphia. I was supporting my friend Mataz Hall who wanted to go back to school. We ended up sitting down with an advisor from Chestnut hill College, and by the end of the meeting I was signing up to apply for admission.
Everything fell into place after that. I entered the fulltime accelerated program at Chestnut Hill College in August 2008 and graduated in December 2010. The transition back to school was not as stressful as I thought it would be. It was hard as I struggled medically and academically during my first semester, but the help and support from Chestnut Hill College and Graduate! Philadelphia made it manageable.
My first semester here I got a C in sociology. I decided to not let that discourage me but to use that as motivation to go after what I really wanted. I ended up graduating Summa Cum Laude, and with membership in three honor societies: Alpha Sigma Lambda (National Honor Society for Adult Learners); Delta Epsilon Sigma (National Scholastic Honor Society for Colleges with a Catholic Tradition); and Psi Chi (International Honor Society in Psychology). I want to eventually practice holistic psychology, which involves motivational therapy for individuals and organizations.
When I graduated, I wanted to celebrate with my nine-year-old daughter and with my whole community. So many people have been a part of this experience. I felt like the degree belonged to all of us, so I created a banner that I hung outside of my home. It read “Thank you God! Through You, all things are possible. Finally I am a College Graduate! To mom- I kept my word. I miss you dearly and love you always. To my daughter, you inspired me to do this. I am grateful and so proud of you. To my family, friends, and neighbors, thanks for being my “village.” I share my joy with you. At 39 years old, it’s never too late. What a phenomenal journey!”
I gained far more than a degree from this. I gained self confidence, a better image of myself and connections with amazing, positive people.
What I would say to others who are starting this journey is to think about what excites you, what lights you up and go after it. I’d say that your concerns are normal, that the hardest step is the first, and that if you go after personal satisfaction and fulfillment your grades will follow. You have to encourage yourself and believe that you will graduate.