Testimony of a nontradtional student and college mom
At the age of twenty, I became a single parent, full-time employee, sole provider, and a full-time student in college. Reflecting on my past, I have realized significant growth in me being a college mom then and now. The bonus for returning to college as a nontraditional student is that you bring your life experiences with you into the classroom. Your knowledge about the world changes the way you interact with the world around you. Wisdom is knowledge and knowledge is power! Let’s take a look back in time and you can decide for yourself how you can let go of your past and take control your future.
In 2008, I worked as a sales associate and my hourly wage was $6.55/hr. I received food stamps, Medicaid, and WIC. My children were toddlers, I was alone, and I lived in a rundown mobile home that could barely retain heat in the winter. Looking back now, I don’t know how I survived other than my determination to raise my children and my faith that I would eventually rise out of poverty. My education level was 9th grade, and I remember the summer I decided to study for the GED test.
I enrolled and was awarded a Pell grant. The grant was enough to cover my tuition and my books but not enough to provide anything for my home or transportation needs. I was not informed of any other opportunities for financial aid. I had succeeded in two months of college work before I had to make the choice of my life. My crossroad was continuing to work and quit school or continue school and lose my only source of income. My employer was supportive of my efforts to be super-mom but was not fond of me falling asleep on the job. I decided to postpone college until I could afford to continue my education. I felt like a failure and held my head in shame for many years. Returning to college took me seven years to find the inspiration to try again and even then I could not afford it.
Returning to college after leaving the workforce was not an easy transition. It was a psychological and developmental process that took years of experiences to develop and only days to employ. In March of 2014, I took a position that was more accommodating to single parenthood. I worked for a contracting company within a local hospital for $12.50/hr. My schedule was Monday-Friday, 8-5, and I felt like life was finally turning around for my children and me.
Curiosity surrounded me, and I decided to submit an application to the University of Arkansas Community College in Hope-Texarkana. The word university intimidated me because I doubted I would qualify to attend a university of any kind. My theory was maybe I can get accepted and take a class or two instead of going full-time. At the minimum, I would begin walking towards my dream of completing my education even if I were only taking baby steps. I received mail from the college stating that they needed other documents to complete my application. I threw the letter to the side and thought I would get to it eventually. Can you relate?
Less than a month later, I received my review from my employer stating that my performance exceeded expectations and that I was being considered for a bonus in the upcoming weeks. I left work that Friday afternoon thinking that I was finally getting life back on track. I returned to work the next Tuesday with a humble heart. My fuel gauge read 6 miles until empty when I pulled into work; my hair was pulled back in a messy bun, and I couldn’t be more thankful to have a job. I asked my supervisor to complete a job verification form for food stamps first thing in the morning. He took the paper and called me into his office merely twenty minutes after I arrived. As I sat down anticipating that he had questions about how to properly complete the form, he told me I was being let go. Confusion set in followed by anger and fear. I asked him why I was being let go, and he said, “You are being let go because you parked in the wrong parking space.” I stared at him blankly thinking he was kidding. He asked me to sign on the line, and that was the end of that.
Panicked and afraid I traveled to the local workforce center. I remember the woman asking me how she could help me; I’ll never forget her expression. I said, “Ma’am, approximately 15 minutes ago I was fired for parking in the wrong parking spot. I have three young children to provide for, and I need a job immediately. Can you help me?” She assisted me with filing for unemployment after persuading me that it was only an option and not my destination. I felt angered because I was fully capable of working and I was a hard worker. Unemployment was something that made me think of someone who was physically disabled. My supervisor didn’t care that I gave my last few dollars to put gas in my tank so I could drive to work, perform my duties diligently, and make his bonuses bigger. I was nothing more than another application number. Welcome to corporate America!
The job search was not promising, and the odds were not in my favor. My resume looked like an elementary student trying to scribble a note to their teacher. My skill set was not appealing and my lack of education limited my opportunities. I was facing the same obstacle that stood in my way my entire life. I decided to utilize unemployment income through the summer, and I would return to work after the children went back to school. This strategy helped me lessen my childcare costs on three children. I thought I was dirt poor, but I was filthy rich. Rich because for the first time in their lives, I was able to spend quality time with each child, instead of shuffling them to childcare providers daily. I learned how to manage my finances to accommodate living off of $1100.00 per month. I was able to reflect on my life and formulate a new life plan. It was evident to me that I had to break my cycle and try something extreme to do so.
In July of 2014, I had received five letters from the college. They collected dust on the counter, and I kept telling myself that one day I would go back. I received an unexpected check in the mail from my 401k one day, and that was the day I lost my mind. You would think I would have used that money to pay for necessary living expenses, but I didn’t. I phoned my aunt in Ft. Worth, Texas. I asked her to take my children for two days while I drive from Northeast Texas to the Gulf of Mexico. She thought I had lost it, and she was right. I lost it all to gain control of my life and my future.
However, I found myself when I touched the ocean the first time. I sat on the jetties and realized that I needed to return to school. That courage to make the trip was the same courage I would use to pursue college. I pondered what I was told for years about going to college and using scholarships to support the costs. I decided that day that I would stop at nothing to make this pursuit successful. I said to myself that I have nothing to lose because I have lost it all time and time again. Each time that I failed, I always got back up and tried again. Can you relate?
Sometimes we need to lose our minds to get ourselves on the right track. I wonder where I would be if I did not make that decision in 2014. I have learned the difference between existing and living. My children are happy, and they have learned how to live without anxiety, fear, and chaos. As an adult, I have learned the meaning of “Living the American Dream!”
From navigating academia to problem-solving my child’s algebra homework, I am posed with a new challenge each day. What I can do for you is to share some tips and resources that can help you overcome some of the daily challenges you will face. These include time management, community resources, financial aid, real-world experience, and so much more. I hope you find inspiration in my work and benefit from the passion I put into my posts.
Learn more about Amanda by visiting her website.
Amanda is a junior studying emergency management administration at Arkansas Tech University. She is a current Pearson Student Adviser as well as a 1,000 Dreams Fund Student Adviser for 2016-2017. Condon aspires to become the next Administrator of FEMA and exemplifies the utmost passion for disaster relief.
She enjoys a wide variety of outdoor activities with her three children such as hiking, kayaking, mountain climbing, and geocaching. Condon upholds Pearson’s mission of always learning by dedicating her time teaching others lessons that have helped her achieve her life goals.
After a successful stint at her local community college, Condon transformed herself from an unemployed single parent into an entrepreneur and motivational speaker in less than two years. By utilizing scholarship programs, Condon has used financial aid and scholarships to fund her education in full.
Condon’s ambitious personality resonates inside in the classroom and throughout her community. She possesses grit and passion for the success of adult learners and coaches students of all ages about the benefits of resource management, volunteerism, scholarships, and philanthropy.
Condon is the Facebook administrator for Scholarship Hot Spot, a group of over 900 students nationwide dedicated to helping each other find and apply for scholarship opportunities. Condon enjoys blogging her experiences and insights on her personal website at www.amandacondon.com. Condon says she is on a mission to make a difference in the world by teaching others how to open doors of possibilities.