Posted at 5:11 p.m., Dec. 3, 2014

inforgraphic

Nontraditional:
A traditional way for most

I’m 26-years old and have yet to receive a college degree of any kind. Some people may see that as a failure or even label me as not on a “completion path.” But the reality, for me, is school is a privilege.

My college career began in 2006, immediately after I graduated from high school. Using the tuition account my parents had set up for me years before, I moved into the dorms at the University of Wyoming and decided I would study psychology.

Two years later, my grades were terrible. I was working in addition to being a full-time student, and I soon realized college was too much for me at that time in my life.

The housing market also crashed in 2008, which affected my mother’s real estate career badly, and I felt I would be better off working for a while. I decided to return to Cheyenne for a job and to save costs by moving in with Mom.

For the next couple of years I bounced around from odd job to odd job. I’ve worked just about every kind of starter-job you could think of: child care facilities, restaurants, retail clothing stores, general retail stores.

From traditional student to the workforce

I eventually landed a wonderful job as a laysitter, at which I would be required to sit through a nightshift watching “fall risk” elders at the Veterans Administration Medical Center. I fell in love with the idea of a career in medicine, which pleased my grandmother a great deal because she was a retired nurse.

I opted to skip the school process and earned my nursing assistant certification(CNA) through a private practice in 2010.

While I continued the laysitter job, I took a position at a home health care facility. This turned out to be a pivotal moment in my “nursing” career because soon after having a horrible experience with a patient and his family, I decided to hang up my certification and chose a different career path.

Opportunities in the laysitter position began to decline, and I needed to find another job. After a one-year stint at a major clothing store and another at a child care facility, I ended up at a hobby store.

When I quit laysitting in 2012, I re-enrolled in Laramie County Community College and was convinced I wanted to work with children.

I was on a good track for those two years, working and keeping up with my studies. I was even asked to join Phi Theta Kappa because of my 3.5 GPA. But, eventually, I realized being a school teacher was not what I thought it was.

Once again, I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I had about a quarter of the credits needed to graduate with an early childhood education degree, but I no longer wanted to work with kids.

Student chooses a path

Luckily, I had been working at my general education courses even though I was an early childhood education major and managed to earn a lot of those general education requirements.

Flipping through the class schedule book one day, I happened upon the mass media department and decided to give desktop publishing a shot. I was good with computers and was looking for new ways to create my mother’s media for her job.

That one class sealed it for me; I fell in love with working on computers and became determined to work in the media industry. I love writing, reading, working on computers, designing and even the advertising sales aspect.

The reason college is such a privilege for me is throughout my entire school career, I’ve had to work. I was never able to dedicate all my time and efforts into school as so many traditional-aged students are able to do. I was also very poorly advised and was convinced college was out of my league. Beginning with general advisers at UW and LCCC who couldn’t help me decide on a major, then moving to an early childhood education adviser who was convinced I needed to attend college full-time, I was never on the right track. It wasn’t until I met Rosalind Schliske, mass media instructor, that I knew I had ended up where I belong…in the mass media department.

And although we nontraditional students are not the preferred demographic for a college, we do make up a large portion of the student body and account for a lot of LCCC’s success. From single moms to people in their 50s and young people who had to work first and study later, nontraditional students are determined and will continue to earn degrees…on their own terms.

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