When I was in high school, I had accepted my fate as a high school graduate and nothing more. I had lost the love of school, something I had while in elementary school living in Massachusetts in the 1980’s, but something I had lost upon moving to Florida. You see, when I was in school up north, I recall the teachers being engaged, excited and there were smaller class sizes. I can vividly recall in third grade having a class where everyone was assessed their current learning level and broken into groups based on that level – some were diamonds, some were hearts, some were clubs, etc. When we needed to work on a particular subject like math or reading, we were broken up into our respective groups and we were taught together while the remainder of the class worked on other topics like art, social studies, etc. In this manner, the students were all integrated and we all learned the same things by the end of the year, but we learned it in the manner and pace which suited us. This wasn’t so in Florida. You were put in a class and that was that. Too bad, so sad if you didn’t catch on or couldn’t keep up with everyone else – you were left to your own devices. It was a whole different ball game, but one that I had little to no interest in playing.
So, by the time I got to high school I knew I wasn’t going to be going to college. My family was not one of financial means though we were able to keep ourselves clothed, fed and solid roof over our heads. I didn’t grow up with the latest and greatest all the time and brand names certainly weren’t something I developed an affinity for surely based out of the fact that I never got to wear them. I’m also of the generation where parents didn’t save for their children’s education like is common now among the Millennial’s or Generation Z were fortunate enough to have. Paying for college ourselves simply wasn’t going to be a viable option. Grades wise, due to my disinterest in most classes by the time I reached high school, I was doing well enough to pass and get by, and certainly in the subjects I enjoyed (which tended to be centered on artistic and creative courses like photography, choir and yearbook staff) I excelled at. But being a solid B/C student meant I would graduate, but I wouldn’t really qualify for grants, scholarships or anything that would truly assist me financially in pursuing a higher education. Thankfully, I went to a technical high school that still offered classes like electric, mechanic and cosmetology. Guess what this creative girl decided to do? That’s right; I chewed up the bulk of my elective selections with doing hair, painting nails and generally making people feel good about them while working predominantly on little blue haired women that came in every week for their rinse and roller sets! At the least, I would be able to graduate high school not only with a diploma, but also a license and training in a trade that could, realistically, make me money.
What changed my mind then? Why did I decide when I was an adult to go back to school and get my degree? Well, becoming a single mother from before the birth of my first child certainly put some things in perspective. I wanted to show my children that you CAN get a degree, at any stage, and that it is a beneficial piece of paper to have. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it and I wanted to put the real world experience I had (if applicable) to work in other ways. I also, selfishly, wanted to take advantage of the programs available for single mothers to make improvements on their life. Granted, that’s not something to bank on – but the programs were there; it seemed silly not to make use of them.
I enrolled in Saint Leo University because if I was going to do this, in spite of the costs it would ultimately take to do it, I wanted to be certain that my degrees were coming from an educational facility that wasn’t considered a technical college or a stereotypical ‘online’ college degree. I wanted it to be as though I had gone to any of the major universities or colleges that exist in this country. Again, that was my vanity, but having been in human resources with various positions I knew the weight a degree from University of Florida had over, say, a Keiser University. It’s nothing against the Keiser’s, the University of Phoenix or any of the other educational institutions that target working students just like me. They are and can be the ideal option for folks. I just wanted to prove to myself I could do this this way. Saint Leo, also, was the only non-online school that I would be able to get my degree completely online without having to take in-person courses and with my scheduling that was a necessity. Working all day, and raising a child (while finding out just before my first classes started that I was pregnant with a second!) meant that I would need to take classes on nights and weekends. Coordinating that in a traditional school setting would have been far more stressful and chaotic than it needed to be, and what would I do if, for instance, myself or my child were sick or something happened and I needed to work overtime? Online was certainly the way to go.
The internet, from the get-go, has been the only way that I, at least in this point in my life, would have been able to get a degree. Were there not programs out there with which I could take my classes in MY time, and not having to physically be within the hallowed walls with the tenured professor’s right there waiting was a requirement, I doubt I would have been able to do as I’ve done. The internet, when I first graduated from high school, was something ephemeral and new; it was just starting to become something that was a tool and had yet to truly become a household name, more or less available in almost every home. Now, we can work through it, shop through it, play through it, study through it and even earn our full degrees in certain situations. Doing so does have its drawbacks, however. For all the sake and ease of being able to take my classes when it was convenient for me, it was an expensive route to take! Sure there were other options available, but going with the school I did ensured that my degree was accredited properly and from an institution that had meant certain requirements where I COULD take my degree other places. You have to truly research your schools to ensure the degree you’re getting is transferrable and ‘universal’ and not just local to your particular county or state. It also means that you have very little down time to relax as you’re trying to cram full time school (in my case) with full time work AND raising a family.
The unique experience that I have gotten in obtaining my two degrees (Associates and Bachelors in Business Administration) through the internet can never really be replaced. I had to work a little harder and communicate more with my instructors than some due to not having that face-to-face interaction, but I also feel I had more access to information and resources through my use of the internet. It required me to think outside the box sometimes for places to obtain references and research from and I wasn’t limited to what the school or even my public library had available. I could feel confident in knowing that I had unlimited resources at my fingertips from blogs to libraries to magazines and newspapers. I could take my time to read through my information and determine what I wanted to include or not because I was on my own schedule (albeit within the confines of predetermined deadlines) and since I was able to see ahead in my classes from the onset I could schedule my time more effectively.
The internet has ultimately become my education. It is not just a tool, but the classroom and the resources for information. Were it not for its invention, I doubt I would have ever held a degree, more or less two and I am truly thankful for the direction that the internet took in its development to provide this outlet for me. For this mother, the internet has been more than just Facebook, Twitter or cute pictures of animals, it has been my development and progression into a better partner, mother and employee – all because I have been able to pursue and fulfill an achievement I never thought would be possible when I was a teenager.