adult learner, Advice, Community College, Dreamer, English learner, First generation, nursing, Single Parent, Transfer

Si se puede! … The Story of an Adult Learner

Young smiling Latinx man in surgical scrubsBy Pedro Aguilar

NU Scholar Cohort January 2020, Bachelor of Science, Nursing – Los Angeles Region, CA.

My story can be told from many perspectives. I am a community college graduate who transferred to National University after having a change of heart. While I had wanted to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work, my work in mental health led me to pursue a degree as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. The rightness of this decision came home for me when Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, asked nursing students and other healthcare professionals to join in the fight against Covid-19. I can still remember Newsom saying “if you are a nursing school student, we need you” as he pleaded for Californians to join the California Health Corps.

I am a first-generation college graduate, single parent, English Language Learner, and adult learner. When I say adult learner, I really mean that I took my education seriously only once I became an adult. While attending community college I held many jobs: grocery clerk, crane and forklift operator, warehouse worker, cook, and painter. I was not sure what I really wanted to become in life, especially because education was not fostered where I grew up. Some of my peers went into real-estate, while others became working professionals like their parents. I, on the other hand, was just trying to find myself and generate a plan for my future.

 

One day during sociology class my instructor shared her experience working with troubled youth. I clearly remember her saying, “One day they love you, another day they are trying to hurt you, but working with them is so rewarding.” What she said inspired me, so after class I asked if she would write me a letter of recommendation. Soon after I became a youth counselor and began my career in social services. This experience taught me that you can find inspiration and ideas from the most unlikely places or comments made by the people around you.

Young man in face mask participates in COVID-19 relief efforts
“Showing others the way” means giving back and letting others know that if you overcame these obstacles, they can too.

“Show others the way” were a few of the words written on my yearbook by my English high school professor, Mrs. Olivas. I did not follow the traditional pathway of going to school, getting a good job or career, getting married, having a family, and living happily ever after. My life took some sharp turns along the way – but after running a few stop signs, getting a few speeding tickets, and repairing a flat tire or two, it eventually brought me where I am today. If you have a familiar story, keep going, and remember that you are not just succeeding for yourself, but that you are showing others the way.

If I had given up when I was in high school, it would have been expected because children that come from broken homes and who are English learners have a higher rate of dropping out.

If I had given up when I was in community college, it would have been expected of me because adults who don’t have a strong support system and who must work through their education have a lower chance of completing a two-year degree.

Diverse group of nursing students and their instructor in hospital setting
Pedro and other passionate student nurses in Los Angeles Cohort 20 celebrate the completion of another class with Professor Patricia A. Bridewell.

If I had given up after graduating community college it would have been expected of me because I was already a part-time parent and full time mental health professional, and had taken a few years off from school. When I attempted to go back, I was told that if I wanted to switch my major, I had to wait in the back of the line because I had lost priority registration. My counselor even told me, “We get that a lot, people are afraid to finish.” I explained to her that she was wrong – I was not afraid to finish, I just knew what I wanted to do.

If I had given up, I would have had to sit down one day and explain to my daughter how I found a million excuses to give up along the way. The thought that she would see a defeated man as opposed to a role model is what keeps me in the fight. I would rather keep my dreams alive and be the light for other dreamers that have lost sight in their path to success. Don’t ever give up! Si se puede!

YoungSmiling Latinx father and daughter in formal attire against a natural backdrop
Pedro and his daughter – Celebrating life’s successes, and looking forward to conquering new challenges. Si se puede!
adult learner, Advice, Community College, Education, Online

What do Journalism, Horticulture, Criminal Justice, and Social Work have in common? All steps in my path to a career in Early Childhood Education!

Smiling blond woman in business attire
Emily Klein shares her tips for a career in Early Childhood Education

Emily Klein

Master’s in Early Childhood Education

College is hard. Going to college and having a full-time job is even harder. Going to college, having a full-time job, and taking care of a family member is even more challenging. These are all challenges college students face on the daily, and while some may take it in stride, others might struggle. What many people don’t know is that I take care of my disabled mother and with that comes helping to pay the bills. Taking care of a disabled family member has always been a major factor in my career choices.

Growing up, I was never a great student, and I struggled a lot in math, especially. While I really wanted to be a teacher, my math skills held me back. Because of my poor math skills I knew there was no way I was going to pass the math portion of the CBEST or the CSET. I also knew that I couldn’t give up the full-time job I had to do student teaching for free – taking time away from my work schedule was not an option, as I helped support my mother. But what career would I do, and how would I get it done AND work full-time at the same time? After much thought I turned to writing, but, after a year of journalism classes, I slowly started to realize that this wasn’t the right career path for me. I changed my major to ornamental horticulture, but this wasn’t the right fit either. Four years later I finally graduated with a double major associate degree in Journalism and Social and Behavioral Sciences.

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Math- Never my strong suit.

After wasting four years in community college, struggling to pay the bills, taking care of my mom, and trying figure out my future, I finally enrolled in a degree completion program in early childhood education. I decided to pursue ECE because in the end my math struggles kept me from passing the CBEST. Before my third attempt at taking the test I decided to let it go and give it to God. I said if I didn’t pass it the third time around then being a credentialed teacher wasn’t in the cards for me and I was made to do something greater. My greater would end up being early childhood education.  At this point I just wanted to hurry up and finish my education so that I could have a better future. Completing my bachelor’s degree was a struggle – I slowly realized that I was in the big leagues and this wasn’t community college anymore. Two years later I would walk across the stage with my gold cords around my neck and the highest Latin honor, summa cum laude, printed on my bachelor’s diploma.

After I finished my bachelor’s degree I got my dream job as an early childhood educator at a great school and couldn’t have been happier. However, two years into my career I hit a plateau and found that I wanted more in life and out of my career. I was tired of always settling for less and wanted to make a greater impact on those around me. I had this feeling that I was called to do greater things but was not able to figure it out what it was that I was called to do. So I did the only thing I knew how to do and went back to school. I enrolled at the local community college and started taking classes in criminal justice thinking that I wanted to be a police detective. After a less-than-thrilling semester in the world of criminal justice, I decided to keep on the search and take classes in a different field this time – social work. I enjoyed the social work classes but realized that I didn’t have the heart to take away children from their families or put myself in danger every time I entered the home of a stranger to take away said children.

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We all wish the path forward were this clear.

Although I gained a lot of valuable information from the class, I didn’t want to be a social worker. At the same time I was taking the social working class I was also taking administration classes for ECE. One day I was sitting in class talking to a peer when out of nowhere a lightbulb went off. I FINALLY realized what it was that I was called to do: Be a college professor. I spent most of my early adult years in community college, so why not get my master’s degree and come back and teach at the very same school where I started my college education? However, the thought of more debt crippled me, but I knew I would never make it to my goal of being a college professor and early childhood education mentor without a master’s degree, so I pulled the band aid off and went for it.

I wanted a program that I could do at home and at my own pace; I also knew I didn’t want to wait two extra years to finish a program. National’s unique online platform allowed me to finish my master’s in a year, from home, all while keeping my dream job and taking care of my mom. I would no longer have to sit in three-hour classes every night, get home late, and stay up even later to do homework. Being selected to become a part of the NU Scholars Program was a huge honor and a huge relief, and I am excited to be part of an organization that gives back to the community.

No matter how many challenges life threw at me, I continued with my education because I wanted a better life for myself and for my future family. It may have taken me longer than I wanted or planned, but I persevered. I wanted to have a positive impact not only on children, but on adults as well, and this was the only way I knew how to do it. I wanted to have a life that I was proud of; and I am now truly proud to be one step closer to my goal of being a college professor. College is hard. Life is hard. But with strength and determination you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. No matter what was thrown at me I persevered, and you can, too. Don’t let the negatives of life and the pressures of family consume you. Stay focused and stay committed. You may think the odds are against you, but you, too, can rise against them.

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Take the leap!
adult learner, Advice, nursing, Parents, self care

2020 Goals: Self-Care in the New Year

By Stacey Beaver, NU Scholar (October 2019 Cohort)
Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Smiling young white woman with brown hair in professional attire
Stacey Beaver, NU Scholar

My life as an adult learner is filled with a seemingly endless to-do list.  Day-to-day responsibilities extend well beyond reading assignments, projects, tests and clinical hours for my nursing program. Even with the help of my supportive and understanding husband Scott, between childcare drop-offs, home maintenance, laundry, and other housework, I don’t have a minute to spare.

With all of this busyness, it’s no surprise that I have not made enough time for self-care.  Self-care is emphasized over and over in my nursing program as a vital tool for managing stress, achieving a sense of calm, and re-energizing one’s self.  Between having a daughter and starting my nursing program, I had let many of my previous self-care habits fall to the wayside.  My daughter is almost two years old, so it’s been a while: Almost two years of driving by the gym I pay too much for, eating an embarrassing amount of fast food, and taking no time to indulge in the things I love most like warm baths or the sauna.  So, I am making a commitment now to treating myself better. I encourage you to join me in my first self-care change: ditching my fast food habit.

Here is how I plan to do it:

Eat Real Food:

I will try to incorporate as many unprocessed and unrefined foods into my diet as possible.  Examples include fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains.

variety of vegetables on display
Step 1: More fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

Meal Prep:

Too often, I have used the excuse that I don’t have time to pack a lunch before I head to clinical or lecture.  Meal prepping will allow me to spend less time every day worrying about what to eat, and instead dedicate a specific time to planning and preparing meals for an entire week.

flat lay photography of three tray of foods
Step 2: Prep multiple healthy meals at once

Drink Water:

I know it’s time to ditch the super sweet coffee and soda.  It’s so easy to take in unnecessary calories and added sugar in drinks, not to mention the cost!  I have a tough time drinking plain water so I will try to dress it up with lots of ice and a sprig of fresh mint or slices of cucumber.

sliced lemon fruit in glass picher
Step 3: Get fancy to drink more water and less soda and coffee

I hope that building this habit of making my own nutritious meals will nourish my body and mind, not to mention help my pocketbook. I hope this post inspires you to join me in making this change, or to commit to your own self-care goal. While it can be hard to justice the time at first, I promise that taking care of yourself will recharge your batteries and ultimately give you more strength and time as you move through your academic program at NU.