Non Traditional Students

In 2006, I decided I was tired of being asked why I didn’t have a college degree. Tired of getting so far in the workforce only to hear that they couldn’t promote me any higher because of my lack of degree. And I decided to do something about it.

At this writing, I am 21 credits short of my degree. I will finish in December 2009. This past summer I attended my 20th year high school reunion. I am married 14 years and have six kids.

It hasn’t been an easy path; in fact, there have been times when I wasn’t sure I could make it past the semester. We spent one winter and spring in a house that was very poorly insulated and were greeted with gas bills of $450 and $350…all while I was working part time for $10 an hour and adding to it everything I could make on the side. The following summer, I followed the work, and the result was that I spent my weeks sleeping in a trailer with no utilities 100 miles from home, only coming home on Wednesdays and weekends.

To put it simply, this is probably the toughest thing I have ever done.

Yet, looking back, I wouldn’t change one thing (OK, MAYBE I would have checked the weather reports a little closer so that we didn’t make a 100 mile move in the middle of a blizzard!). While I found myself somewhat out of sync with some of the other kids, I soon found that the younger kids were eager to work with me on classroom projects because they knew that I put a great deal of work into it and saw me as their ticket to getting a better grade in the classroom. The campus ministries welcomed my family with open arms, and there were many times through the semester where our meager pantry was shored up by donations from the churches that ran them.

For many years, I have always viewed a college degree as “just a piece of paper”. And for some, it may be. But as I sit in my office with my Associate’s Degree hanging on the wall and look forward to the time 11 months from now when I’ll get the Bachelor’s Degree to go with it, I realize that it means so much more. When I look at it, I see the long hours, the exhaustion, the mad push to finish projects by a deadline. I see something that I have invested a lot of hard work to obtain.

Being older and having thousands of obstacles to my degree has certainly made the pursuit of a degree a somewhat discouraging endeavor from time to time. But come December, I know that no matter what else I may have done, I have taught my children a valuable lesson in character that they will carry on with them the rest of their lives.