It’s Never Too Late: On Pursuing a Degree Later in Life
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Our society tends to view education as a linear, uninterrupted journey, failing to account for the circumstances that lead us on winding paths.
As someone who left school early, moved, got married and worked as a teacher at small private schools before ultimately advancing her education, Bonnie Rios knows all too well that life does not care for our narrow views of how things “should be”; it just happens. But, as Bonnie explains, it’s how we deal with those unexpected turns that ultimately shapes us, equips us to right our path and empowers us to share that path with ours.
Pointing to her journey as an example, Bonnie shares: “When I was first in college a long, long time ago, I was majoring in social studies, and I ended up not completing my degree. I was like three credits short. I ended up not doing it. Then, I needed to go back to work when my youngest was, like, pre-school age. I ended up working up for my kids’ private school in teaching even though I didn’t have my degree because it was a very small private school... and I was a bright person, a kids’ person.”
But while she flourished in the private school environment, Bonnie admits she always felt “less than.”
“We moved again, and I went to work for another private school,” she continues. “Then I got a divorce, and I realized I couldn’t continue to work, [so] I went back [to school] out of necessity. My ex-husband had been supporting us, and I was making a tenth of what he was making. So, when I was alone, I had to do something. The success that I achieved just gave me so much confidence, and I realized I had so much to share and so much to give.”
Bonnie encourages students with more life experience to own their path and tap into those experiences. “I left [school] when I was in my 20s, and I was in my late 40s when I went back,” she says. “When I found out I could do it, I just fell in love with learning again and realized that not only can I be a student, but I can be a teacher and I became kind of a mentor to the other students. So, when I talk to students who are more from my generation, who are nervous, [I tell them] remember how much you know and don’t ever let anyone make you feel small in that. We can learn from the younger students, and they can learn from us, and it becomes a symbiotic relationship with all of us.”