I was always a bit non-traditional. I was a non-traditional wife-getting married in my teens. I was a non-traditional mom-having all four of my kids by age nineteen. I was a non-traditional divorcee at age 23, and at age 24 I became a non-traditional student at Mississippi Delta Community College in Moorhead, Mississippi.
There was a large gap between the time that I graduated from high school and the time that I entered the hallowed halls of MDCC as a freshman for obvious reasons, but there was also another reason: I was simply misinformed.
My credit score was less than exemplary due to identity theft. I was still too young to have done any real damage on my own, but my ex-husband and his new girlfriend helped me out by making credit purchases in his name and mine and not paying the charges. I talked to a good friend of mine about this and she assured me that I could not get loans or grants as long as these items were on my credit.
Because I wanted to go to school so badly, I still looked into it for myself. Turns out the “friend” really didn’t want me to go to college for fear that I would actually make something of myself and the damage to my credit was not as bad as I had once thought. I discovered that I was eligible for financial aid and with the help of a second-chance scholarship and a Pell grant I enrolled in classes during the fall of 1997.
I remember standing in line for admissions and not really knowing what to do. I was just so happy to be there that I was crying. A very nice clerk walked me through everything practically holding my hand. I didn’t even know what I wanted to major in-I just knew that I wanted to help people. Without really giving much thought to what I was doing, I chose Business Administration for my major because I didn’t know what else to choose.
I started out in local night classes because the actual campus was thirty miles away and I didn’t have transportation. It was a tricky situation to say the least. The building that housed the classes was only a couple of blocks from my house and I didn’t have a baby sitter. Every night during breaks I would jog home and check in on my kids. We went on like this for a whole year as I took every night class that I needed. By the grace of God we were okay until I finally had to go to the campus.
Lucky for me that one of the professors lived in my town and now chartered a bus that he drove every day to and from campus! Being in night classes was a wonderful experience. I learned a lot and even made some new friends. But being on campus was something completely different. For the first time, I really felt like I was in college.
I was completely engrossed in all of my classes and even had a “school girl” crush on my brilliant biology professor. His enthusiasm for science was downright infectious! I was pleasantly surprised to find my high school French/Spanish teacher on staff and I once again found myself under her deft tutelage for both courses. My English Composition professor pushed me to be a better writer and I will be forever indebted to her for that. The leadership and etiquette courses I took helped me to be a well-rounded person. I even enjoyed my health classes though I have never had an athletic bone in my body, but I felt the strongest pull from my psychology and sociology courses. There was just something so exciting about delving into the minds and personalities of people and finding out what made them tick.
Even though I had a very full course load that year (fall semester I had 22 hours, and spring semester I had 25 hours), I was still able to enjoy a semi-active student social life. I joined the Challengers, a society for non-traditional college students and spent a lot of time at the Baptist Student Union. I spent many lunches catching up with an old high school friend who was now the Assistant Dean of Students, but the biggest lunchtime attraction had to be watching soap operas at the student union! There was always a nice size crowd whenever All My Children was on!
The most important thing I learned while on campus was that I was definitely not a business major. By interacting with the different students and professors in my classes, I realized that I wanted to work in social services. I felt more at home and at peace in my psych and sociology classes than anywhere else on campus, so that’s what I changed my major to.
I was inducted into the Zeta Zeta Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society during a beautiful ceremony in the spring of 1999. My children and my mother were present and it was such a special feeling to have them be proud of me. I left Mississippi Delta Community College in the spring of 1999, having graduated with honors with an Associate of Arts degree in Sociology and Psychology.
A lot of people don’t understand how challenging and fulfilling attending a community college can be. I know that the foundation my coursework at MDCC laid was the building point for my attendance at Delta State University in the years to follow. My professors at MDCC challenged me at every turn. They challenged me to be a better student, a better mother, and a better person.