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Five jobs and five kids couldn't keep L'via Weisinger from accomplishing an educational goal 25 years in the making.
Yes, we said five jobs. And five kids—from age 5 to three who are in college.
The Teaneck, New Jersey, resident and online BSN student at WGU is a part-time hospital nurse, working about 20 hours a week. She's a lactation consultant who does house calls. She's a lice specialist. She's a freelance writer. And she's the owner of Her Royal Cakeness, a cake decorating company.
And about a year ago, she decided to finally pursue the bachelor's degree in Nursing she knew she'd need when she first earned her associate's roughly two decades ago.
L'via first earned a bachelor's degree in art and fashion 25 years ago and started her career.
"I quickly got disenchanted," she said, "and a few years later, I went to nursing school."
At the time, she decided only to pursue her associate's degree in nursing, even though "they warned us then that one day you're going to want to back and get your bachelor's in nursing. An associate's wouldn't be enough. So I thought, OK, OK, I'll get to it someday."
In the meantime, she made do with the degree she had, continuing to get jobs but always knowing it would take a BSN to really get where she wanted to.
"I'm a self-motivated learner," L'via said. "I believe in education. I always thought I should do this. It will help my career, and it will make me a better nurse for my patients."
So about 12 years ago, she enrolled in an online program. After finishing 10 credits, she dropped the program in frustration. It was too expensive, too tedious.
And that, she thought, was that.
Years later, though, while covering for the school nurse in her kids' school, another mom there who was also a nurse began talking about her recent graduation with a BSN. L'via, in frustration, said she wished she could do the same. "You gotta check out Western Governors!" her friend replied.
"That was in June a year ago," L'via said. "By August 1, I was registered. I was convinced, as soon as I saw what I could do in what amount of time and what price. The two big things for me were the price and the competency part of it."
Because she already had a bachelor's degree in another field, she wasn't eligible for federal financial aid. The low, flat-rate tuition at WGU was critical; so was being selected to receive the WGU Go Further in Nursing scholarship, which WGU debuted last year for National Nurses Week and is offering again this year. (Learn more about the Go Further in Nursing scholarship and apply by April 28, 2013.)
Her previous online program, she said, had required her to check in to an online classroom and do group work with other students across the country. As a self-motivated learner who wants to work hard and not be held back by classmates, "that was not conducive to me achieving my goals."
Under WGU's competency-based education model, she pushes herself, learns her stuff, proves she knows it, and moves on. After two decades as a nurse, "I know how to be a team player. You don't need to teach me that part. I just need to prove my competency."
What she found was that she wasn't just proving competencies she already had—she was gaining new skills and knowledge that will help her be a better nurse and serve her patients.
"This is really challenging work! This is not like, 'Oh, piece of cake, whatever.' This is really forcing me to learn, and be creative, and think! It is obviously a worthwhile program. It's challenging. It should be. I'm proud of it."
In fact, she and her three children who are in traditional colleges recently found they were all struggling through the same infamously difficult subject. "We all took statistics at the same time, which was hilarious, and I got the highest score! And I taught it to myself, while they had instructors in a classroom!"
She also credits her mentor for helping her work her hardest and make amazing progress. She is now just one course away from graduating. She's set May 30 as her personal goal for finishing.
"When I first heard I would have a mentor, I was pooh-poohing—'a mentor? I don't need a mentor'—but I don't know what I would have done without her," L'via said. "I'm petrified of Wednesday morning (when she has her weekly mentor call). I feel like I have to have something to show her. I have to prove that I'm producing. It pushes me. It motivates me."
"As soon as I finish this and take a breath for a while, I'll hopefully be back for my master's," she said. (While she takes that breath, her husband hopes to take the opportunity to enroll in WGU's online MBA program.)
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