"I was just working too hard and not getting paid enough. I earned my GED in 2009, but it was still difficult to find gainful employment. I was working in real estate at the time, and the market was in free fall. I had become accustomed to receiving commission checks at least once a month. Things got so bad that at one point, I went two or three months without seeing a dime."
Exasperated, Tekilla knew she had to do something, but like most people, had little idea what that was. The choices were few. Tekilla recalled hearing an advertisement for adult education classes for "non-traditional students" at Harcum College in Chester. After doing some research and talking to counselors, she decided to enroll as Leadership Organization student at Harcum. It was hard at first. Indeed, no one said it would be easy. Still, Tekilla recognized that earning her degree was the best way to increase her family’s quality of life over the long-term.
"It was a real struggle. In my first year, I was working three jobs. My husband was working two. Finding someone to pick up and watch the kids was a tall task in itself. I learned quickly to manage my time effectively and to multi-task. Between school, family, kids, and my other responsibilities, I was overwhelmed. My focus was always on completing the degree. I had to finish. That was my mentality. That’s what got me through."
As is often the case, time "flew by." Today, Tekilla is completing the final requirements for her Associate Degree in Leadership Organization. With the finish line in sight, Tekilla reflects on how higher education has enriched her life and what she plans to do with her degree.
"When I began the program, my confidence was low. I was the first person in my family to attempt college. I had people telling me that I didn’t need to go—that I could get where I wanted to go without my degree. I remember researching the Harcum website and, to be honest, I was very intimidated. Not only was this a completely new experience, but I was also considerably older than most students. I was afraid of being mistaken for someone’s mom. When I received my first grade report at the end of the first term, my confidence shot through the roof. As time progressed, all of the fear and negativity that I had allowed to drive my thinking just dissipated. I made the Dean’s List every following semester through graduation. Today, I am enrolled in Ashworth University, where I am Business Management student. My life has done a complete 180°!"
Through hard work and determination, Tekilla transformed her life through the aspirational power of education. By exploring the range of possibilities made possible through higher education, Tekilla insists that she is not done: "There’s a reason they call it commencement. It was only the beginning for me. I’m looking to get a few more letters behind my name before I’m done."
# # #The ACE (Achieve College Education) College Program in Chester, PA is a collaboration between Harcum College, I-LEAD (the Institute for Leadership, Education, Advancement, and Development), and Chester Education Foundation. Since its inception in 1995 as the original product of a Weed and Seed grant project, Harcum College in Chester has helped 70 students get started locally on the path to higher education and stands as the foremost community partner empowering adult learners towards self-sufficiency.
For more information about the ACE College Program in Chester, please contact Assistant Director of Community Engagement Judith Ortiz by phone at 610-859-6023 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.