By Stephanie Lemus
Most students attending college are usually recent high school graduates. However, some college students are beyond their teenage years. Many older students are occupied juggling full-time jobs and family obligations. At the time, they are attending college in hopes of earning their associate degree. It is not an easy task, but it is not impossible to accomplish.
Alumni, Meris Alvarado, a wife and a mother of two, attended the campus in 2012 had motivation but for one reason or another she decided returning to school was not worth her time or effort.
“I chose a community college because it is relatively close, my family is here, and the fees were alright I guess,” Alvarado, said. “I went for three semesters and I just took basic classes.”
Alvarado mentions her positive view while attending the campus, “The professors I had were around my age, in their thirties, and most kids in the classes were 18 years old that had just recently came out of high school. But the professors treated everyone with respect since all of us attend to pursue a future career.”
While being a student, Alvarado’s schedule and work life got complicated, especially when she decided to take a Chemistry class.
“That was stressful; the professor treated all of us like idiots. My professor was the main reason that I quit,” Alvarado said.
She did not end up taking her Chemistry final, she only finished a lab her last day of class, then she stopped attending in the spring of 2014, two weeks before the semester was over.
“Now that I look back, I did try my best in college. I graduated high school in 2001, and I went back in 2012, without even opening a book. I was just trying to earn my associates degree and I did try. I just wanted to show my kids that maybe I did make a mistake not going to college right after high school but I did go to trade school for medical assistant. I just thought to myself that I did not need the stress and it did take time away from my kids.”
However, there are students who see the impact education a community college can offer them. Amie Bernstein, a current student, represents most students who are older attending college, and are motivated to get their education.
Bernstein enrolled in the spring of 2005 and took a couple of classes on and off for a few years with no real particular interests or anything specific in mind.
“The lists of classes I had withdrawn from or failed were substantially longer than the list of classes I had passed. I decided after the fall semester I did not need college just like I did not need high school, which I did not finished either and I was doing fine.”
After dropping out of college, Bernstein worked at a number of places until she found a part time office job.
“I worked in the office of a small family owned company for 2 years before I asked for a raise. Every week they said, ‘Yes, we are giving you a raise, you will see it in your next paycheck,’ and 4 months later, it was still not there. I saw my life flash before me. I thought, this is what my life will be, living from paycheck to paycheck at different entry level jobs that had no room for growth. It scared me.”
After waiting for a supposed raise, Bernstein left her job and on that same day she drove herself to the campus and went directly to the Registrar’s Office to sign up for classes.
“Since then I have gotten an A in almost every class. My GPA jumped from a 2.8 to a 3.7. I went from being on academic probation nearly every semester to an over- achiever. I guess you could say that my primary objective at attending Suffolk was to have a future without limits.”
In addition to pursuing her degree, she enrolled in the Ophthalmic Career Progression Program through Eye Vision Associates located in Lake Ronkonkoma.
“I work in the optical department of a specialty optometrist’s office that has five doctors. By completing the course, in addition to a state licensing exam as well as the American Board of Opticians exam, I will receive a New York State optical dispensing license. I also work at a library café part time.”
She is spending one more year at the college while working on achieving her Opticianry license.
“Hopefully next year I will be able to transfer to Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. I will transfer into a Baccalaureate program to pursue a degree in psychology with a minor in leadership development studies.”
She adds, “My best advice would be to get involved on campus in some way. Building relationships with peers and professors will enhance the community college experience as it will help you be a better student as well as a better candidate for employers in the future.”
Students like Bernstein should be applauded for their dedication, commitment, and determination to achieve their Associates degree. Age should not stop anyone from getting a college education.