4th Quarter, 2006
Dale E. Fridell Scholarship Winner
University of Southern Maine
My name is Corey Williams. I am a Junior at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, Maine. I will graduate next year at the ripe old age of 33 with a degree in Business Administration; Marketing concentration. The road I have taken to reach my goal of obtaining a college degree and starting a rewarding career has been full of bumps and frequent U-turns.
Originally I had wanted to become an Astronaut and went to school for one semester for Aerospace Engineering. That idea didn’t last too long. Since then I married, had two children and divorced. I have been a clerk, a waitress, worked in a factory and as an Administrative Assistant. I thought that maybe I wanted to be an Accountant, a Food Scientist and even a Real Estate Agent. The one thing that didn’t change during this 13-year journey was my desire to return to college. That dream seemed impossible as a single mother of two little boys, but I kept my eye on the goal and waited patiently for the right time to make my move.
When I took a job as a Marketing Assistant, I knew immediately that it was the right profession for me. A few years later I decided it was finally my time to go back to school. The kids were older, and I was ready. The past few years have been a struggle, both with time and finances, but it has all been worth it. I am finally able to see the light at the end of the tunnel and have never been happier.
A Portion of Corey’s Winning Essay:
What Does Achieving a Degree Mean to me? I have been pondering this question for a few days trying to come up with a creative answer. The only answer I have come up with however is not creative, but it is honestly how I feel. Besides being a good mother and raising my boys to be well-rounded, respectable citizens, there is nothing more important to me than going back to college. If I don’t reach this goal I will spend the rest of my life, as I have the past 14 years since graduating high school, feeling like a failure that hasn’t lived up to my potential. Achieving a degree is everything to me.
When I was a little girl, I wouldn’t say that I was perfect, but I was your all American middle-class kid. I went to Sunday school, participated in Girl Scouts, joined some of the local sports clubs and played with my friends. I excelled in school, and my parents never came home from conferences with a bad report. I especially excelled in Math and Science. My parents were very supportive, and I never heard from them that I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. In elementary school I wanted to become a Marine Biologist, and my parents planned our family vacation around this interest. We spent the week in Woods Hole, Mass. visiting the Oceanographic Institution and going on whale watches. I was in 6th grade watching the first teacher to go into space with my fellow classmates when the shuttle exploded. The event had a profound effect on me, and I became infatuated with space and the idea of becoming an astronaut.
In 8th grade my parents supported my dreams once again by scraping up the money somehow to send me alone to Alabama to attend Space Camp for a week. I came back from camp with a wonderful education about NASA and friends from all over the U.S. and Canada. It was also a big ego boost when I returned to school and gave a presentation of the experience. Not many children from my small town are able to go on such adventures. I didn’t even realize the value of it at the time. I wasn’t old enough to realize that my trip probably cost a month of my parents’ wages. I was old enough, however, to realize that they expected great things from me.
In high school I decided that I would make my way to NASA by becoming an Aerospace Engineer. I did well in high school and put a great amount of energy into my Math and Science classes. In 10th grade my parents signed me up for Private Pilot Ground School and my first flying lesson for my 16th birthday. I took flying lessons every other week. My parents paid for one week, and I would pay for the other one with the income from my part-time job. I started to change a little bit during my senior year. I now call it “The beginning of the end of the good girl”. I got my license and a car. I stopped taking flying lessons because I was spending all of my money on the car and hanging out with my friends. I still wanted to go to college and have a successful career, but now I wanted some excitement. I became quite rebellious and started driving an hour to the city to hang out with some less than desirable kids that I had met. At the time they just seemed so much more exciting than my nerdy friends from school did. I received my first two C’s on my report cards that year and crashed two cars. I still could have turned things around. Other than the two C’s my other grades were pretty good. I was accepted into the National Honor Society, Girl’s State and Who’s Who. I did well on my SATs and got into my dream college, Boston University. That summer, however, I started dating someone I had met in the city. When I went to college he moved back home with his mother to New York.
Boston University was very different than I had imagined. The little small town girl just didn’t seem to fit in that well. I’m sure I could have made more friends and found my spot in the big school if my boyfriend hadn’t distracted me. On a visit to New York I discovered that he had a drug problem; crack of all things. So, I quit school after only being there for a few months so that I could move to New York and save him. My parents were devastated. I rarely called them because I knew that they were so disappointed. I found out the hard way that I couldn’t help someone that didn’t want it. I met someone new while I was still in New York. I moved home, got pregnant, married and had my first son all within that next year. I tried to take two classes at the local university but ended up quitting them as my husband was not very supportive of the idea. I spent the next few years going from one minimum wage job to the next and fighting with my husband. I couldn’t stand our lifestyle and was determined to improve my life. I found a job in a factory that had decent pay and great benefits. After about a year I became pregnant with my second son. While I was out on maternity leave I took advantage of the company’s tuition reimbursement program and took a series of Microsoft Office computer courses. When I returned to the factory I applied for every possible position that would take me off of the production line. At this time I seriously started thinking about going back to college and what I would like to do for a career. I took a promotion as a crew rotator and then another as the Administrative Assistant for the New Product Development department. Neither of these positions really called out to me. I also divorced my husband during this time and felt that I could finally focus my energies on improving my life.
My next promotion was the Assistant for the Sales & Marketing department. I knew immediately that this was the place for me. I love the creativity involved with Sales & Marketing, the pressure of deadlines and analysis that needs to take place for every campaign. There were times when I sat alone pouring over a spreadsheet all morning and then in the afternoon I handed out coupons at a baseball game.
In Marketing I have found the perfect mix of my interests. The only thing that I disliked about this job was the fact that I was an assistant and unfortunately I had hit the ceiling at this company of where I could go without a degree. I just couldn’t see myself being an assistant for the rest of my life, and I desperately wanted to go back to school. My coworkers were very appreciative of my work, but I resented them. They all had at least one degree and in little ways made it known that they thought that they were better than I was. This really bothered me. I think it was more the fact that I knew that if I had gone to school before I could do their jobs just as well as they could. I took five college classes at night during the 4 years I spent in this department. I thought that I might get my degree by the time I was 50. When my little brother’s wife graduated from college in 2003 I cried through the whole ceremony. I felt so ashamed because I wasn’t crying with happiness for her, I was crying because I was jealous of her. I knew that no matter how much money I made or how successful I became in life, I would forever feel like a failure without a degree. However, I just couldn’t see how I would be able to go back to college as well as provide for my children. I thought that I would be struggling for the rest of my life. Growing up it was always just assumed that I would go to college and lead a successful life. After years of academic excellence, it’s hard when you realize you’ve blown it and can’t even pay your bills on time.
Last year I had the opportunity to move back to my hometown and live in a beautiful old house next door to my parents. I left the company that had been my home for 8 years and took a position with a small local company. The job didn’t end up working out, and I found myself unemployed this past summer for the first time in 12 years. I had to make a decision. I could look for another Administrative Assistant position or I could waitress for the summer and go back to college. The decision was easy. I knew it was finally the time for me to go to college. My children are getting older (8 and 12) and no longer require my constant supervision. If I am not home when they get off the bus, they can just come home alone for a little while since my parents are right next door.
Once again, my parents have been wonderfully supportive. They are so happy for me that they said they would try to help out any way that they could. They have taken the boys to sports practices and fed them dinner when I ran late getting home. I feel truly blessed. So, here I am, back in college. I am 32 years old, and I feel like I am 18 again, ready to take on the world. Obviously the next few years will be a financial struggle for us, but I keep telling the children that it will all be worth it in the end. The bills may stack up, but we are getting by. I traded in my mini-van for a very gas economical 2-door Hyundai. Christmas was smaller this year than usual, but the children understand. They know that this is important for me and important for the whole family. I try to do my studying when the kids are in bed, but many nights I have fed them dinner and then headed straight into the computer room to work. Sometimes we all sit at the table together and do homework. I think it’s important for them to see this commitment that I am making. I have already started letting them know that I expect them to do well in school and go to college.
My oldest son is deaf. He is very bright, but he struggles with English as it is a second language for him. I see so many deaf people settling in life. They take jobs were they can hide or work only with other deaf people. Many just decide that they can’t work and live on SSI. I don’t want this for him. I want to offer the boys the same kind of encouragement that my parents offered to me. I want them to know that the world is open to them to make their dreams come true. Getting this degree will show them that if I can struggle through it, so can they.
Hopefully, I will find a good job after graduation, and they will also be able to see how a degree will improve our life style. My goal is to get a degree in Business Administration with a Marketing Concentration. After graduation I plan on finding a mid-level Marketing position somewhere in Maine and immediately starting my coursework towards a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. With my education and future experience I hope to spend the next 20 or 30 years working my way up the corporate ladder. I also have an interest in owning rental property. I have previously owned a duplex building, which I had to sell when the renovations became too expensive. Once I am financially able, I would like to purchase another multi-family home. Hopefully by the time I am ready to retire from the corporate world I will have several units to keep myself busy and to provide an income. I have dreamed about returning to college since the day that I decided to drop out. I know that now is my chance to make something of myself for me and for my children. I am very dedicated to this goal. I have worked very hard for these first 60 credits, receiving mostly all A’s, and will continue to work just as hard for the next 60 credits and graduation. I hope you will please consider me for this scholarship. There is no way I can work full-time, take a full course load and continue to be a good mother to my children. I can manage to keep most of the bills paid if I can find additional help with the cost of school. Please be assured that your money will not be wasted as there is no way that I will let this dream slip through my fingers again.
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