Tag Archives: adult students

It Only Matters How You Finish!

Parkland College Student Trustee Crystal Bates (above, third from right) details below her determined journey to get to, and succeed at, Parkland College.

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Life threw me a couple of curve balls long before I had ever chosen to take swing at bat:

I was recruited by the US Navy at age 17 and spent two years doing secure communications in a foreign land. I had joined because my options were to go to college, join the military, or enter the workforce with zero training or experience.

I came back home and the years slipped away from me; I was busy trying to have fun with the least amount of responsibility possible. I worked retail for almost 10 years before retail took a big hit because of the tight economics. The job was not fulfilling, and each day I dreamed of how I could escape this tedious work that made me feel so mundane. Soon, I was laid off from my job and so worked various short-term jobs to pay the bills and take care of my daughter.

Next thing I knew, four more years had passed, and I was pregnant with twins! This was a shock; I believe that most of that pregnancy I really thought the doctors were kidding. After 34 weeks in, we found out that one of the twins was in distress and had to be delivered immediately. Realization set in when I was holding two healthy, and happy babies. Now I was a mother of three. This was my title, my work. But all the while, I’m dreaming of a better life for my children and me. How was I ever going to accomplish anything with three small children? With passion and unbridled determination.

I had a fire burning inside me, and the only way to put it out was to invest in myself for the benefit of my children, myself, and others. Dreams that I was in school, receiving an education that no one would ever be able to take away from me, drew me to Parkland College, where I knew they held the keys to my dreams.

Application for admission, assessments, orientation, student ID—before long, I was officially a Cobra! Upon meeting with a counselor, she revealed the degree of my dreams: Associates of Arts in Psychology. I signed up for fall classes immediately. Was I nervous? Super nervous.

As a matter of fact, I would come early just so I could find friends to keep the panic attacks at bay. The circle of friends I have made have been some of the best friends a person could ask for! We help each other with assignments and are there for each other for social and emotional support. These connections with students and our professors has kept me at Parkland for my (now) fifth year, as a nontraditional student.

I have had to take longer than most, but I graduate in the spring of 2017. Has it taken me longer than that of traditional students? Sure it has, but I have a 3.2 overall GPA, all because I took considerable time on assignments and made sure that my grades were a high priority. Also, because I have determination and passion, I have held two offices in Student Government. I started out as a student senator and have currently been voted and sworn in as student trustee.

My time at Parkland is coming to an end, and I am so sad. This is such a great institution with amazing professionals who make it their personal goal to see each and every student succeed. I have been so fortunate to have built such amazing social connections because Parkland feels like an educational “family”. Besides fantastic professors, the Center for Academic Success has assisted me in ensuring that my GPA is as solid as it is. CAS is an amazing tool that each and every student has access to. I cannot speak highly enough about our tutors and our Writing Lab! Use these free tools that help make each one of us better students and extremely qualified professionals in our chosen field of study.

Has it been hard to go to school with little kids? Of course. It is a balancing act, just the same as daily life is. But I decided to tip the scales in my favor and invest in my personal academic path. Do I plan to transfer? Absolutely. I am not done yet. I have developed an addiction to learning as much as I can, as long as I can. The end result will be a mater’s degree in clinical psychology. Being a veteran, I feel I have a duty to help my brothers and sisters in their struggles to maintain normalcy, and this is whom I hope to work with, for the most part.

Busy Restaurateur Thanks Parkland for Degree Push

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Although he’s too much of a gentleman to say it, Brian Farren probably scoffs at the notion of being “too busy” to return to school.

After all, this is the man who has a full-time job as an operations manager at FedEX and helps run the successful downtown eatery that bears his name while constantly taking classes and raising a family.  The 2015 Parkland graduate will complete his bachelor’s degree at Eastern Illinois University in May 2017 (Organizational and Professional Development) and is now contemplating grad school in addition to earning both personal fitness and life coaching certificates.

Brian recently took time for some Q&A with me about life as an adult learner:

How involved in Farren’s pub are you?

A: We have had Farren’s for a little over 16 years. My involvement comes and goes as needed. Day-to-day, I would say I am hardly involved at all; my wife deserves the lion’s share of the success we have had with that venture. We first met while employed at the same restaurant, so we are both capable, but hospitality is definitely her calling. I would consider myself the best pinch hitter she has. I am working an event for her this weekend because she will be out of town with our kids.

How has the Adult Re-entry Center helped you accomplish your academic goals?

A: I returned to school at Parkland College in August 2013. I first contacted Billie Mitchell, who was the director of the Adult Re-entry Center at the time. She listened to my goals and, using my transcripts from previous credits earned, helped me tailor a course of study to accomplish them. My journey was then handed to Tony Hooker, who finished what Billie had started. Tony was encouraging and helpful while I completed my studies at Parkland and always made himself available to answer my questions.

What advice would you give to prospective adult learners?

A: Get in and get started as soon as possible. Start slowly in order to reacquaint yourself with the learning environment, but don’t wait. The sooner you start, the sooner you will finish. Do not let the fact that you may be older than some of the other students bother you. You can be a great resource to them and you have the opportunity to bring maturity to the classroom that few others can provide. Adult life brings distractions that were not there in younger years, so keep your attention on your priorities and stay calm. Don’t try to do too much; you will finish if you stay focused.

Is there anything you would like to add?

A: I never thought I would have the desire to return to school, but as I near the end, I am glad that I decided to complete my education. The job market continually gets more competitive. Completing your education can provide what is needed to take advantage of future opportunities. I am grateful that I found the Adult Re-entry program at Parkland and that I took advantage of such a great local resource.

[To get started finishing your degree, contact Tony Hooker with the Parkland College Adult Re-entry Center at ahooker@parkland.edu or 217/351-2462.]

 

Insurance Standout to Speak at Open House

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[For Jay Downey, managing director of the Downey Group, Parkland College was a game changer. Downey will present the talk, “What Parkland Means to Me” at our Spring 2015 Open House tomorrow (Friday), at 12:20 p.m. in Room U140. I asked him a few questions as a teaser for his discussion. Please come out to hear him!]

How has Parkland impacted your life?

“Parkland allowed me to find a bridge from high school to the U of I. I was not the best student in high school for a lot of reasons. Parkland had programs to help me get stronger; its professors and associates had the patience to help me obtain the skills I needed to be successful at the next level.”

Are you still using the lessons you learned here? How?

“I use the lessons I learned at Parkland every day at work and in my personal life. Parkland educated me to write business proposals and recognize famous works of art in a museum. The education I received was broad, comprehensive, and very affordable. I admire and respect all of the instructors I had and have a deep sense of gratitude towards them all.”

What is the Downey Group?

“The Downey Group, Inc., provides high quality life insurance, long term care, disability programs, and related planning, for affluent individuals, families, and businesses. We work closely with you to accomplish a variety of wealth accumulation, preservation and transfer objectives.”

Jay Downey is a qualifying and life member of one of the highly regarded associations in the insurance industry, The Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), where he has achieved Honor Roll status. He is a Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU®), and a member of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA).