As a busy single working mother I didn't think I had the time, inclination or money to go back to school. I used to say jokingly, "There is no money in the budget for food". Of course, my four children didn't want to hear that since they had voracious appetites. However, it was partially true. I had to steal from Peter to pay Paul when anything unexpected occurred. I dreaded the fact that something broke or that someone outgrew a pair of shoes. Life was generally lived on a shoestring. I had to find a way to get out of that merry-go-round I was on and couldn't see how I could work more or earn more, given what was on my plate. I knew intuitively that school and a different marketable skill was going to be the ticket for me and my family. Needless to say, when I made the decision to go to school to try and change how we were living from day to day (sometimes from morning to night) the whole family was going to school. It had to be a joint effort, since I could no longer take care of the family 100% of the time, but could be there during the important times. Of course I was afraid...I hadn't been in school for 21 years!!!!
So the journey began. I found a different job working from 11 at night to 7 in the morning, was home to ensure that all ate breakfast, sent the kids off to school, slept a few hours, and then off to the university I went. I made arrangements for after school and was there to prepare dinner. I felt like I was earning the black bags under my eyes!!!! The time passed and little successes became bigger successes. The first C in Math became A's in other courses. I got hooked on learning and loved the fact that I was growing. I intended to get that marketable skill through an Associate's degree (and that is a wonderful and admirable goal as well) but soon realized that the higher my degree the more my capability to earn a better living. I borrowed money to go to school through student loans and the debt was accumulating. I used to joke that my student loan would be paid off with my Social Security check...and I was partially right!!!!
If we fast forward, with my Bachelor's degree I found a wonderful position as an Admissions Counselor in my university and my earning capability doubled!!!! My life and the life of my family dramatically changed with a steady paycheck and some security. My ability to help support my family increased and I felt an enormous sense of accomplishment. With my Master's degree I became a Continuing Education Coordinator...and then my earning capability doubled once again. With the PhD my life changed and there was no looking back!!!!! Needless to say...the cycle of living from hand to mouth, borrowing from Peter to pay Paul changed and I was in a position to help others and pay it forward.
So do I believe in education .....You bet!!!!! Did it payoff in tangible and intangible ways....a resounding yes!!!! Am I in a position to pay it forward.....no doubt...
That is why in the School of Continuing Education when you walk through the door...I see myself. I personally know the sacrifices involved and the focus it takes to "pay yourself" so that you can "pay it forward". Now as I look back, I am glad that I took the risk so that my family could have a better life. The gift to me is one that I will always cherish and example set for others is the one that makes the greatest impact.
Dr. Shelly Gimenez
Dean of the School of Continuing Education