Give it the old college try

Roughly six years ago, I made the decision to stop attending college. More than 12 years since I graduated from high school, I found being uneducated and unskilled a disagreeable existence. So re-enrolling in college for an associate degree was a relief.

Connie Sanchez was my algebra instructor last summer; her enthusiasm and passion for teaching encouraged me to become a better student. At the end of the semester, she shared with the class a bit of her personal journey to create a better future for her family.

She said that during her personal struggles as a mother and student, the staff at Midland College rallied and supported her. She stressed the importance of an education and how, by getting your degree, life will vastly improve.

While not identical to my situation, there were some similarities, and it made me curious to talk to other people who had decided to return to school.
According to The National Center for Education Statistics, there are 17.6 million undergraduates enrolled in American higher education.

Thirty-eight percent of these are over the age of 25, and one-fourth are over the age of 30. The number of students who are over 25 is projected to increase another 23 percent by 2019.

According to Rebecca Bell, dean of Community Relations, as of Sept. 5 there are 5,091 students enrolled at MC.

Currently there are 1,125 students who are older than 25; 699 (or 62 percent) are between the ages of 26-35, and 426 are 35 or older, which is roughly 38 percent.

MC student Michelle Yapp graduated from high school in 1987, and her husband recently retired from the Army and got his degree. Her youngest child just started kindergarten, so she decided that now was the perfect time to return to school.

She said there are certain challenges to returning to school, including “trying to get the work done and balance it with the home life, making sure that my children have rides and that the bills are paid.”

Yapp said she is currently focusing on one class this semester, but plans on being a full-time student in the spring. Her goal is to become a history professor.

“If I can learn something from somebody that’s younger than me, great” she said. “If they can learn something from me because I am older and I have a little more experience, great. I’m happy to help in any way that I can.”

MC student Mike Hernandez just celebrated his 39th birthday. He said that it had more than 20 years since he dropped out of school and two years ago he received his GED. After receiving his GED, he didn’t want to stop there.

Partly due to his previous battle with substance abuse, he felt compelled to go for his LCDC (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) accreditation. Hernandez said he wants to become an LCDC because “it was time to pay it forward” and help others whom are struggling with addiction.

This past December, Hernandez celebrated 10 years of sobriety.

I felt a little out of place when I started this fall semester. I decided to seek out other older students, who I found were inspirational individuals trying to make themselves and the world a better place.

No matter where you are in your life, it is never too late to improve yourself. Because you made bad decisions or mistakes in your past doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.

The most important lesson I’ve learned in life is to continually move forward, seek out new ways to make yourself a better person and help encourage those around you to become stronger and better individuals.