meet our latest scholarship winner

Monday, June 2, 2014

Without a bachelor's degree, 53 year old Ann Marie Shea lost her job after 25 years in the Early Care and Education field, and is now working toward her degree with hopes of obtaining a career in advocacy. To help her reach this goal, she was awarded a $750 UWW scholarship.  Her concentration: Early Education Care and Advocacy. Her advisor: David Bartone

Every non-traditional age student has a story. What’s your story?

I am a 53 year old unemployed female and not getting any younger.  A degree was not going to all of the sudden appear on my wall. I had been trying for years to get an Associate’s Degree to no avail. It was slow going, and when I got near to the end they told me I needed seven more classes. I said I am too old for that, it depressed me and I lost all interest of obtaining a degree. Years later, as I moved up the professional ladder I needed to do something to obtain higher positions in my career. I heard about UWW and went to a seminar about it, and liked what I heard. I thought I can do this. I would be the only person in my family to obtain a degree. Of course it took me another five years to follow through with that idea.

I started in September of 2012 and have continued to take two courses every semester since then. In January, 2013, I was laid off from my place of employment of 25 years. I did not know what I was going to do. I was getting state-funded monies for school from my Early Education and Care profession. After that spring semester, I needed to find other funding sources. I now am doing student loans and going into debt with no job in sight. My unemployment stopped this December, 2014 along with the other 1.3 million unemployed people in the US. It really scares me not having a job or unemployment money to live on, and going into debt to gain a degree and still not able to find a job. I keep telling myself I will not stop; I will get this degree no matter what happens. I will not let myself down on this goal any longer. I will not stop until I obtain my BA degree next May, 2015. No matter all the obstacles I have been facing this past year, I promised myself I will get that degree no matter what. I will achieve my degree, which is my goal in life right now along with finding a job.

This UWW scholarship came in so handy, for I am taking a course this summer and the monies are coming out of my own pockets even though they are empty. This has at least relieved some financial pressure from my pocket as well as a relief from my mind. Thank you so much for choosing me for this scholarship. It could not have come at a better time. It added a rainbow to my dark clouds.

Why did you choose UMass Amherst UWW to complete your degree?

I had looked into UWW five years ago and liked what I saw but did not follow through with it. Three years ago, one of my colleges was attending UWW and raved about it. I decided to look at it again; it met my crazy 50 hour work week. I did not have to be at a college in a classroom at a certain time. It met my needs at that time, and still does. It was one of the smartest things I have done in my life in a long time. I am so happy I chose this path for a degree.

What is the best part about being a UWW student for you?

I choose which classes meet my needs and my degree field. I can work around my classes at my own pace and time. I have met people from all over the world. All the online classes are easy to maneuver and follow. The professors are very helpful even though all my classes are online. They answer questions and help guide you to what will help you most in making the correct choices to help you achieve your degree in a timely fashion. They understand that most people who attend UWW are people who have jobs and are raising families and their time is very limited and precious to them. They get that and understand where you are coming from. They really care about you and how you are doing. It shows even when your classes are all online.

What has been your favorite class at UMass Amherst so far?

Contemporary Issues and Human Services. It really brought into perspective many cultures and issues concerning them, and how they are perceived by ourselves and others. I opened up my eyes to the other part of the world besides the US and our inner circle problems.

How do you balance work, school, and other responsibilities?

Now that I am not working, I look back and ask myself how had I worked all those hours and did my school work? I then realized I was up late at night and spent the weekends doing my school work. The semesters seem to fly by. There is a light at the end of my tunnel. By taking one class this summer it will keep me on track to take two more courses this Fall 2014 and Spring 2015. Then, the end of this goal can be met by me and me alone. All I need now is money and a job. All things come to those who wait, or so I hear. I am still waiting; I hope something comes my way very soon.

Can you tell us a little about your job if you’re currently employed?

My past employer I was with for 25 years. I started out as a substitute teacher and when I was laid off in January, 2013 I was a center director. I had done a number of job positions within the agency. That is why I have decided to change my career to become an advocate.  I found I really enjoy working with all types of people and families and helping them find the correct services to meet their needs, be it early intervention services for a child or a GED program for a teen mother to elderly services. I want to help guide these people to understand the services and receive the services that they are eligible for.

What has winning this scholarship meant to you?

Winning this scholarship as I said before has really helped relieve some monetary and mental stress. The summer course that I am taking will be paid from my own pocket. Being unemployed and broke, I was really stressing about taking the course. Now, knowing that some of my course is paid for is a relief for me. It will be less money I have to put on my credit card to pay for the class. If I did not take this course this summer, it would have changed my graduation goal date, which I have been working really hard on keeping on target with my UWW plan.

What advice do you have for other students finishing their degrees?

Keep on top of things; don’t lose sight of the final target: your degree. If you feel overwhelmed or stressed, talk it out with your advisor and professors; they’re humans, too and have been there as well. I found them to be very helpful and compassionate when need be. They also can give you that push you need sometimes. And remember, you are doing this for you and only you. Make it all about you, and reaching that goal you set for you. Don’t let other obstacles get in your way of reaching your goal.

What are your future plans professionally and personally?

I am hoping as I continue to get closer to my degree goal it will enhance my chances of obtaining a career in the advocacy field of which I plan on becoming. I know I have the ability, compassion, and experience to help guide people in need of services in the advocacy field. I will make a wonderful added team player to anyone’s advocacy business. 

Tell readers something cool about yourself that no one would guess about you. I love to cook and someday, years down the road, I would love to open up a small breakfast and lunch place.