I cannot recall college ever being discussed around the dinner table. Though my father did earn an associate’s degree through the Community College of the Air Force, neither of my parents attended a traditional four-year university, nor did many of my family members. Growing up as a military brat, I resided on an Air Force base where most of my friends and peers were the children of enlisted fathers without college degrees. Not only was college never discussed at home, it was not a topic of discussion amongst my peers. In South Carolina, where I attended high school from 8th through 10th grade, all of the Air Force dependents were bussed to an inner-city high school where drop out rates were elevated, and where there was no such thing as advanced placement classes.
By the time I moved to Texas at the beginning of my junior year in high school, my fate was already determined. The new high school was more academically diverse, and I did well in the few advanced courses I took, but the idea of post high school education never really took hold. I do remember being interested in taking some classes at a local junior college, but the whole process overwhelmed me. The thought of college so dumbfounded me that I took a part time job after graduation and did nothing else. Eventually I decided to brave the scary unknown and made a trip to a campus. I can still recall the lost feeling of driving around trying to find the right building and parking lot. Once I finally started college, the education process was a lot easier. I worked during the day and attended classes in the evenings. In April 1986, just eleven short months after high school graduation, I got married. My husband and I both attended classes at Central Texas College until he joined the Air Force in 1988. My college education came to a screeching halt when we moved to Mountain Home AFB, Mountain Home, Idaho. The University of Maryland had a satellite campus on base, but the tuition was almost four times the cost of Central Texas College. I decided the cost was too high and never bothered to apply for financial aid. Instead I immersed myself in being a wife, and working full time as the assistant director at the base youth center. I was content and never really gave my discarded education much thought, until many years later.
By 2007 my husband had separated from the Air Force, we had returned to Texas, and our family of two had grown to five. It was during an employment transition that my desire for a college education reignited. I had begun working in the Accounting Department at the corporate offices of McCoy’s Building Supply. I was literally surrounded by people with advanced degrees. Though no one treated me differently, my lack of education embarrassed me. Living in a town with a major university made my decision to return to college relatively easy. I was so excited over the prospect of attending a “real” four-year university.
Because I tend to do everything to the extreme, I attacked college with full velocity. I managed to work full time, take care of my family, and take 13 semester hours. I completed my first semester with a 4.0, earning a place on the dean’s list. I was incredibly pleased with my progress. However, as it sometimes tends to, life happened, and three weeks into my second semester, I made the devastating decision to withdraw. My husband had changed careers and was now working nights and sleeping days making him less available to the family. Our worlds collided the weekend he needed to sleep and I needed to devote myself to writing a ten-page paper due the following week. At that moment I realized I could not sacrifice my family for my education. After work Monday I made the long trek to the registrar’s office to officially withdraw. I maintained my composure throughout the process, but completely lost control when I exited the building. Tears streamed down my face as I made my way back to the car. After that I completely buried all thoughts of college. Assuming my educational goals would never become a reality, I focused on other things and pretended my lack of education was irrelevant.
One of the courses I took in 2007 was University Seminar. During the semester my professor mentioned the occupational education program, specifically the opportunity to be awarded work life credit. I initially turned up my nose because I wanted a “traditional” degree. However, five years later and still no degree, my perspective has changed dramatically. By 2012, with only one child still living at home, I decided to revisit the occupational workforce leadership studies program. I was persuaded this was the program for me, after the first appointment with an advisor. Under this program, not only would Texas State accept the rest of my junior college credits (initially only 5 of them transferred), but I could also apply for up to 24 hours of work life credit! As if this news were not exciting enough, once my Central Texas College credits were evaluated, I was classified not as a freshman, but a sophomore.
I re-enrolled at TXST in the spring of 2013 and now thanks to the 18 hours of work life credit I was awarded for my five years at McCoy’s, 9 hours in the spring and 12 in the summer. I am junior and have earned enough credits to order my class ring! If I can somehow find a way to complete the only math course I need for graduation without having to take two remedial courses first, I’ll be able to graduate this time next year.
People often ask what my post-graduation plans are. Honestly, I don’t have a specific career in mind. I love writing, so my dream job would be one where I get paid to write, but only God knows what my future holds. For now, I love being a student and working hard to maintain that 4.0!!