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In April, Marlena Unz will be a college graduate at age 46, earning her associate’s degree online from Bryant & Stratton College as a medical administrative assistant. While for many of her classmates a college education was a way to gain the skills and training required to get a job, for Unz it was also an opportunity to prove something to herself and her children.
Going Back to School
Unz had not considered attending college since the early 80’s. Instead, she got married to her high school sweetheart, started a family and was a stay-at-home mother, running a small in-home daycare while her husband worked to provide for their family. However in 2009, just a few months shy of their 25th wedding anniversary, she abruptly became a widow following the unexpected death of her husband. Because they were so young, she says she and her husband had not prepared for the possibility of one of them passing away, so without him, it was now her sole responsibility to create a financially secure future for her family.
"I had no choice – I had to find a way to make a good living for my kids and I needed a college education to do that," Unz said. "But after 27 years outside of a classroom, I decided I wanted college to come to me."
Online education was the perfect fit. It offered a way for her to continue her education without having to sacrifice time spent with her school-aged son, allowing her to be an involved parent and still earn her degree. And by being successful in school, Unz was also able to gain her confidence back.
"There was a time when I could not see a future and did not know how I could make it on my own, but doing well in school gave me back the confidence I lost when I lost my husband. Not only have I been able to show my children that life has to go on, I was able to prove it to myself as well," she said.
Unz says education provides hope. And while she started because she needed to prepare for the future, she stayed for herself and she encourages others to give online education a try.
"You have to have a little faith in yourself and you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll accomplish and how you’ll feel," she said.
Lindsey Mikal, email@example.com