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The Non-Traditional Education Route: Hard But Worth It!

The Non-Traditional Education Route: Hard But Worth It!


I became a mother very young. I married young…in that order.  We like to do things backwards in our house: baby, marriage, school. Statistically, we should have failed. Statistically, I should have failed. Fourteen years ago, I enrolled in school, not because I was going to complete a Bachelor’s degree, but because we needed money, and I needed skills to make that money. Before I knew it, a couple of classes turned into a bookkeeping certificate, which turned into 40 credits, and then 60, and then 121. Ten years later, I was done. It’s been one crazy ride.

I studied in my car at my son’s soccer practice, in the bathroom, on family trips, while waiting in the parking lot to pick the boys up from school, and I have even been “that girl” who typed away on her laptop during football practice.

I had to lock myself in my room on Sundays to finish papers or research information, often missing out on Sunday dinner and spending time with my family. Trips were planned around finals and papers, and my poor boys, husband included, endured me like CHAMPS when I was “finals-crazy” as they liked to call it.

On the day of my last final, I came home to find my three favorite men gathered around the kitchen table clapping and cheering. It took my breath away. It begs the question: were they happy because I had accomplished such a huge task when the odds were against me or were they clapping because “finals-crazy mommy” was finally put to rest?  I’ll always be suspicious. My kids watched me walk to the stage at the University of Maryland and take that diploma proudly. I’d earned it. They had earned it.

The greatest part, for me, is that I can look back on my time as a college student and know that not only did I graduate, but I did it while raising a family, supporting my husband, holding down jobs I never dreamed I would do, moving, and volunteering—a LOT.

When I felt like I was NEVER going to finish school, I took another class. When I thought I would never survive another move, I volunteered in the community and made my new place my home. When I felt like I was letting down my family for wanting something for myself, I remembered my education was for all of us, and then I took a study break and went to the park or playground with the kids or went on a date with my husband. I graduated when I was 32 years old. My kids are half-grown. My husband is still my husband. And I have no regrets.

This experience changed my life. It shaped who I am as a person, a mom, a wife, a professional, and as a mentor to others. It taught me I can do ANYTHING I set my mind to, no matter how long it takes. You can do it too.

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1 Comment

  • Shannon Bowden says:

    I finished my education the same way! Now I am teaching college classes to students in the very same difficult boat. Good for you!