Returning to College IS Possible
1. What was your means of income before you returned to college?
I was a school teacher, teaching music which I absolutely loved!
2. Can you recall the first trigger or event that caused you to think about returning to college?
I loved teaching but I knew that I would need something with better long term income potential if I was going to raise my daughter alone. It was a struggle on two incomes when I was married and I knew it would be even harder with just my income.
3. What is the degree or certification you earned or that you are working towards?
I have a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership and a Doctorate Degree in Law.
4. How did earning this degree or certificate change your life?
I was able to provide a very comfortable upbringing for my daughter and not have to struggle to make ends meet. We both had everything that we needed. She is now a senior in college and living pretty much on her own.
5. How will or did it also change the lives of your children?
My education and career path showed my daughter the importance of getting a good education and putting that as a priority in life, and also showed her that it is very possible to be a single parent and not have to rely on anyone else to provide for you. I never wanted her to think that she had to get married in order to be taken care of, that with a good education she could do whatever she wanted and take care of herself.
6. How did you manage to pay for the tuition, books, etc.?
I had to take out student loans, and I also worked part time at a law firm. My last year in law school I had earned a full scholarship, but I still have a balance on students loans.
7. How long was the process for you from beginning to end?
Law school was 2.5 years. The masters degree took about 18 months.
8. What kept you going when the going got rough?
I just kept my eye on the future, knowing that the struggle would pay off for me and my daughter in the end. It was hard being away from family, so I would travel home to see them as often as I could just to get a boost. When I finished school I decided to move back to my hometown to be close to my family again and raise my daughter where I had been raised.
9. What suggestions do you have for other single moms thinking of returning to college?
Just do it! There are so many opportunities available now that were not available to me when I went back to school, there are online programs and financial aid and grants for single mothers that I so wish I could have taken advantage of way back then. Surround yourself with people who will support your efforts and not try to talk you out of it. Find some friends with like interests and who are doing the same thing as you as a support system of people who know exactly what you are going through. And do not lose sight of the end result, always picture in your mind the life you intend to provide for your children as a motivation to continue. When the stress gets to you, it is ok to have a meltdown! Get rid of the stress in a healthy way and have a sounding board friend or family member to turn to in these times. Keep God in the center of your life and He will give you the strength to finish the race!
10. Give a description of your life before and after this endeavor.
Before I furthered my education it was hand to mouth every month. I can remember having to decide between buying cheaper diapers and healthy baby food! I hated living that way. Once I finished my schooling and began my law practice and really got settled into my practice, it was so nice to be able to splurge! But, the lessons I learned about budgeting and scrimping and saving while I was struggling have paid off through the years, because I never forgot what it was like to have not enough.
Donean Beckcom Reese Today
Today, I maintain my own solo law practice where I concentrate on family mediation (resolving disputes without the necessity of court intervention) and parenting facilitation (counseling separating and divorcing couples on becoming effective co-parents to raise their children together in their new separate families). I handle cases primarily in Jefferson, Orange, and Hardin counties.
I also am a Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist (went back to school AGAIN!), assisting people to change their eating habits and maintain a healthier lifestyle. I teach classes at local gyms and appear on local television stations promoting living a healthier lifestyle through proper nutrition. This was a hobby that turned into a profitable business at the urging of my family to take what I was doing for myself and my family to others.