Theresa McClinton of Hilliard, Ohio, is studying for her bachelor’s degree in business management at WGU. She shares her story to inspire and encourage others who are considering going back to school.
Why did you decide to pursue your degree?
Well, it’s kind of a long story, but the shortened version is one I’m sure many Night Owls can relate to. I’ve read several of these WGU student spotlights and found their stories to be nothing short of inspirational. However, I’ve not read a story that represents the kind of situation that I, and so many other parents, have unexpectedly found themselves in. So here it goes.
I was married for 15 years to the father of my four beautiful kids. We had built an amazing business together. Besides raising our kids while he traveled and worked, the businesses were my main focus. I developed websites, created promotional material, and catered to all of the graphic design needs. It was my second job — my first being a parent. We were very successful, our kids were without want, we lived in a beautiful home in a highly desirable city. Life was good.
In 2017, my marriage came to an abrupt end. I was terrified. With four kids to care for, I had no idea how I’d support them in the long run. I had no corporate workforce experience and no college degree. I had nothing except for the settlement money from my divorce and a large house with high taxes. I was house poor, heartbroken, and unsure what to do when my mom took me by the shoulders, looked me in the eyes and said, “Honey, it’s time for you to go to college. No one can take an education from you.” It was the only path to long-term stability for myself and my kids.
In this new chapter of my life, it was my time. It was finally time for me to pursue my degree.
Why did you choose WGU?
WGU appealed to me for the same reason it appeals to so many mature students with families — a high-quality education, plenty of support, a flexible schedule, affordable tuition, an assortment of degree programs, and the potential to accelerate. WGU ticked all the boxes I needed to complete my degree and truly be in control of my success.
What do you plan to do once you’ve completed your degree?
I have my eyes set on earning some Salesforce certificates, then applying for a position where I can work closely with clients to design websites that cater to their business needs. It’s right up the alley of what I have been doing since 2012 as a freelance website designer and graphic designer. I’ve had the pleasure to work with a variety of small business owners, startups, and nonprofits. The people are just amazing, and if I have a passion for anything, it’s people. It’s the smiles, excitement, and gratitude I get to witness when they see their vision transformed into reality by having their very own customized online platform and business identity. Knowing I made a difference in their lives is what keeps me moving forward in this field.
Tell me about a mentor in your life.
I’ve been blessed to have a rally of mentors and supporters. My mom, my four kids, my older sister, community members, and — as of June — my new husband. I wouldn’t be able to earn this degree if it weren’t for the people who so passionately cheer me on while I struggle through the ebbs and flows of being a college student and a parent. Let’s face it, it’s hard. Recently my toddler had a nasty virus; I was running off three hours of sleep each night because, well, a sick toddler. My husband slept on the couch without complaint so the baby could be in bed with me. My older kids got ready for school on their own so I could sleep in a bit. My mom bathed the baby so I could write my papers. My husband cooked a massive pot of Chicken Tikka Masala last night so I wouldn’t have to make dinner for a few days. My sister checked up on me regularly.
It’s because of these amazing people that I have the strength to push forward. And I cannot forget my amazing WGU mentor, Dedra Thomas, who has been right beside me every single step of the way. She has shared personal and intimate stories of her own life to teach me to never give up. She has laughed with me and spent sobering moments giving me reality checks so I don’t lose sight of why I enrolled in college. I’m very, very thankful to WGU for providing me with a mentor I can lean on when I’m struggling to make progress.
What is your favorite part about your WGU experience?
That’s a tough question. There’s so much to love! I think the sheer amount of student support is my favorite part. WGU offers counseling to students for free, as well as degree coaching, career coaching, resume help, writing and math centers for students who struggle in those areas, and a slew of other free benefits. I’ve never felt more supported and understood than I do at WGU.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I wanted to do this spotlight to offer my situation as proof to other struggling single parents that it can be done. When I started with WGU, I was divorced with four kids, scared, and broke. Out of that struggle I grew into the person I always wanted to be. I proved not only to myself, but also to my four daughters, that I can do absolutely anything as long as I’m willing to work hard and have faith in myself. I want to be an example for them. I want to show my girls that out of a terrible situation, you can craft an amazing future. I want to be a role model to show them how to learn from the pain you’ve experienced and rise above even your own expectations with no bitterness, no resentment, and no anger to pollute the intentions of your heart. Just a whole lot of courage, God’s guidance (in whatever form you choose to believe in), and the determination to walk your path with dignity and self-respect. So if you are a single parent, or even a married parent struggling to make ends meet, know you are not alone. It may seem impossible, and you can easily come up with a thousand reasons why going to college is impossible for you. My question is, can you come up with one good reason why it is possible? Because that’s all it takes. One raw, brutally honest, make it or break it reason why you absolutely can do this. My mentor calls this “finding your why.” Never lose sight of why you deserve this degree. Let your “why” be your driving force to a bright, amazing future. You’ve got this.