Back to School: Standing in Line Again
By Suzette Randolph Hinton
It had been 20 years since I last stood in a line on a college
campus. I was an undergraduate freshman waiting in
the admission's line to register. I swear that line was two blocks long!
Yet, here I was back at school again - this time with a few strands
of gray hair and joints that ached every time the wind
gusted between the buildings.
Id thought I had chosen a time when nobody at the college would
be in line. It was one hour from closing, for goodness
sakes. Nonetheless, here I stood with textbook bag in tow,
slung over one arm and bouncing against an aching back.
Giggly kids laughing with each other and talking on
their cell phones surrounded me, not the least bit concerned
about how slowly we were moving. I braced myself as
another gust of wind chilled me to the bone.
What had brought me back to school? I had been severed from my job and my counselor
felt returning to college would improve my marketability
for re-employment. I didnt have anything else
to do. Besides, I preferred continued education over
rejection letters from employers. So I chose the
associate degree program at my local community
Prior to returning to campus, I had worked for almost
five years with my husband. I remember how good it felt
to leave the corporate world to join my husband in a
business venture. Initially, I provided administrative/clerical
help as a subcontractor. We were pioneering a nonprofit company that would aid
previously institutionalized individuals with mental
deficiencies. With staff available 24/7, these individuals
would secure housing and learn to function more independently
Who would have thought that after helping to build
a business, being promoted to financial controller,
going from a solitary five-figure salary to a combined
and moving to a prominent neighborhood, I would be penniless and standing in line as a college
student again? Only a few months ago, I had a career and a
marriage. But with the marital separation came job severance
and unemployment. I had nothing but piecemeal furniture,
my clothes and my son, at least for now. I was facing
a custody battle. I didnt even have a car of my
Fortunately for me, my counselor informed me of the availability of financial aid: grant
money that I was eligible to receive. It was called
a WIA grant which stands for Workforce
Investment Act. This act was an initiative on the
federal and state level to assist adults and dislocated
workers with finding and securing viable employment.
As part of that initiative, unemployed individuals were
offered training. My counselor informed me of two opportunities:
computer training or substance abuse counseling. I told
her I preferred substance abuse counseling.
You see, my counselor didnt know that only a
year prior I had inquired about the masters program
for counseling at a local four-year college. I spoke
with the dean who informed me that my college transcripts
were no longer viable as they exceeded their 10-year
window. He said that Id have to get another
undergraduate degree in order to pursue a masters
degree with their university. Disheartened, I gave up.
At the age
of 40 something, I wanted my work to have meaning. When
my counselor said the words counseling,
it was as if time stopped and everything else faded
into the background. I heard the hallelujah chorus in
five-part harmony. It was my moment - my opportunity
to get into counseling.