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In the summer of 2012, Jessica Hawk and her husband found themselves asking what many working adults do every day: How could they find the time—and the money—for her to go back to school to gain the education and skills to improve their lives? To complicate the situation, the Hawks, parents of two, were dealing with the demands of caring for their 12-year-old son, who had been born with multiple disabilities and had just finished a surgery that required him to be in a full body cast.
As they struggled at this crossroads, Jessica's husband said they needed either to finally make the sacrifice for her to get her degree or to give up and start paying back their accumulated student debt and move on.
But where to start? Jessica had started and stopped college twice already, and she had recently investigated opportunities from community colleges to online schools only to find that either cost or rigid schedules made the dream seem impossible.
Guidance and insight were soon on the way, though from an unexpected source.
"One of the nurses who helped care for our son mentioned that she was going back to school at Western Governors University and that our son had inspired her to finish her degree in special education so she could help more people," Jessica said.
"Once I heard about WGU—with its flexibility and the fact that it was so affordable—I thought, 'I can do this!'"
Three semesters later, the sacrifice and hard work paid off when Jessica finally grasped that college degree—her bachelor's degree in Marketing Management—and, with it, landed a job with the State of Ohio. The new job doubled her pay and has the Hawk family moving closer to work into a nicer home with a bigger yard their kids will enjoy.
Jessica notes that she was able to get her degree in large part because she could study and do her coursework on a flexible schedule, allowing her to keep her job and still take care of her family. She credits her faculty mentor, Nick Rothacher, with helping her stick to her goals and commitments.
"I knew he would be calling, and I didn't want to give him excuses of why I didn't finish the assignment or project or whatever. I always got the most done the night before our scheduled calls!"
And now, looking back, Jessica is grateful for a simple conversation with her son's nurse that helped her find the opportunity that would propel her career forward and better her family's situation.
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