As a nontraditional student, Jessica faced many obstacles on her path to a bachelor's degree.
"At Prosser Career Academy, I participated in the International Baccalaureate program. The teachers would tell us students about college opportunities, but to be honest, I hadn't thought ahead to college during my high school years. I knew I enjoyed school and learning but I did not have a clear vision of what I wanted to do. I dropped out of high school my sophomore year and received my GED at age 18.
"Even though I wasn't a traditional high school graduate, I always knew I would pursue a college degree. I started my college education at Wright College (one of the City Colleges of Chicago). My professors at Wright encouraged me to apply for the DePaul Adult Bridge program (a collaboration between the School for New Learning [SNL] and City Colleges of Chicago providing coursework and advising to help students transition to a four-year university). With the support of the Bridge program and wonderful advisors like Peggy St. John from SNL, I earned an associate degree with high honors from Wright.
"I entered DePaul University with a newborn son at age 28. Although I knew entering university with a newborn would be somewhat hectic, I was ecstatic and determined. DePaul was my one and only choice for attaining my bachelor's degree. My experience at DePaul has been more than I could have dreamed of."
"My biggest academic achievement thus far is being accepted into the McNair program."
"I didn’t think I would be admitted because I am a nontraditional student, a mother and in DePaul's School for New Learning. But the McNair staff took me seriously, invested in me and gave me an opportunity to grow. The staff asked me serious questions about my academic goals and aspirations and this has helped me determine what my passion is.
"McNair has also helped by guiding me toward a PhD. Before the program, I wanted to become a child psychologist and help children on an individual level. But now I am looking at getting a PhD in order to implement sexual abuse prevention programs that can help a larger number of children in more profound ways. I am now able to see how my research can change policies. McNair has given me an alliance of faculty and staff at DePaul and motivated me to be a part of research teams where I am having hands-on clinical research experiences that give me a preview of what graduate school will be like.
"As a nontraditional student and someone who has never even been near someone with a PhD, I didn't have the capacity to see the options available to me. McNair has had a big influence in helping to shape my future and dream big, giving me the confidence to help me realize my potential.
"Looking back on my path to a bachelor's degree, I realize that there were many obstacles I had to overcome, from having financial setbacks to the fear of being an adult learner. Although being a nontraditional student is still an obstacle for me, I am much more confident in my abilities and appreciate the support from McNair, my professors, family and friends that I have made along the way who are also nontraditional students motivated to achieve their goals."