3 students who’ll inspire you

If you started school at some point and weren’t able to complete it, that doesn’t mean you’re incapable of doing so or that you’ve missed your shot. And if your education journey looks different from the traditional, cookie-cutter path, that doesn’t make it any less admirable. You’re a smart, driven individual who’s actively striving to create the future you want. Plus, you have an entire community ready to support you along the way!

In case you need some motivation to refresh your drive to succeed, these inspiring students have been up against great odds and are still pursuing education — and you can, too.

Toughing it out — Thomas V., Bellevue University

Thomas first began attending college directly after graduating high school. Almost 20 years and five colleges later — and after going through a divorce, filing bankruptcy, having his car repossessed, and being evicted — Thomas was finally forced to drop out. He had earned over 170 college credits and was saddled with $50,000 in student loan debt, but he had no bachelor’s degree to show for it.

When his employer announced their education benefits program, Thomas jumped on the opportunity and began attending classes to complete his degree. While in school, he’s also working full time, remodeling his house, and completing background checks, counseling exams, house inspections, and classes in order for him and his wife to be finalized as a foster family.

They’re now proud foster parents, and Thomas is starting his senior capstone. 21 years after taking his first college class, Thomas is about to graduate!

“It’s kind of an inspirational story… about perseverance and toughing it out even though it seems like you’re in over your head. Everything I do and everything I’ve done since I started going back to school all ties back to exactly the same thing. I want to be here to be present to support my family and to be with my family.”
— Thomas V., Bellevue University

Feeling powerful — Alyssa R., UMass Global

Alyssa started college immediately after graduating high school. She studied health science for three semesters, then realized she didn’t know what career path she wanted to pursue. Alyssa changed her focus to dental hygiene, transferred to a technical school for another three semesters, determined that she didn’t want a career in the medical field, and dropped out entirely. Instead, she turned her attention to the company she had held a job with since high school. 

One day at work, Alyssa saw a pamphlet for her company’s education benefits program. She wanted to finish her degree but didn’t want to take out any more student loans, and the education benefits made both of these things possible.

Alyssa enrolled and began working toward a bachelor’s degree while simultaneously working her way up the management chain to become a general manager. She even opened her own store by the age of 24, where she manages a staff of 25 people! Alyssa also got engaged, became a homeowner, and raised a puppy (on top of already owning another dog).

To fulfill all these responsibilities, she’s had to push herself and remain disciplined. But for Alyssa, the third time’s the charm — her hard work and dedication paid off, and she graduated from college, becoming the first person in her immediate family to earn a degree.

“I just feel really powerful. If I can do this, I can do anything — that’s what it feels like. The thought of going across that stage, I think about it all the time… I really am so excited. I’m so proud.”
— Alyssa R., Brandman University

Staying focused on what you want — Zamani K., Southern New Hampshire University

Zamani immigrated to the United States from his birth country, Nigeria. He had already graduated from high school, but because the education system in the U.S. is different from Nigeria’s, schools in America couldn’t accept his transcripts.

Zamani returned to high school, worked hard, and graduated again, only to learn that he couldn’t go to college because his immigration status was in process. Even after that was completed, college was still out of reach — Zamani couldn’t apply for the FAFSA because he wasn’t a U.S. citizen and therefore couldn’t receive financial aid or afford to go to school. When his work permit cleared, he got a job and began saving money to attend school. 

Shortly after starting work, Zamani heard about his company’s education benefits program, and he wasn’t about to let that opportunity pass! College was a lifelong dream that had always been just out of reach, but now Zamani is working toward a bachelor’s degree.

Balancing work, school, and life can be stressful, and Zamani feels added pressure knowing that his peers in Nigeria have already finished college — so he motivates himself by focusing on his goals. He has a younger brother and a sister who live in Nigeria, and he works hard to provide for them. Zamani’s hopeful that with a bachelor’s degree, he’ll have the financial stability necessary to bring them to the United States.

“My uncle — he would always tell me that it’s not how long it takes, but basically how well you finish… I don’t have to compare myself with other people, that my destiny is different from theirs.”
— Zamani K., Southern New Hampshire University



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Written by Guild

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