Juggling Families, School, Jobs, and Athletics

August 1, 2019 | by ashlynn reynolds-dyk | photos by jana graham photography

Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it. ~Marian Wright Edelman

As someone who thought it was a bright idea to have my first two children in the middle of my Ph.D. program, I know firsthand that attending school with a family and a job is no easy task. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 26% of the total college population, or almost five million undergraduate students, are out there doing just this kind of crazy thing.

As many prepare to head back to school, I talked with four May 2019 graduates from our local colleges. Throughout our discussions, my goal was to learn what the most significant challenges of having dependents while attending school were, and how each of these inspiring people successfully made it through their degree programs.

Meet Edward (Eddie) Tanzosh

This military man decided, just in the nick of time, before his GI bill expired to give up his job as a highway patrolman and go back to school to study art. Eddie says balancing family, school, and work (he worked full-time in the Admissions office at RMC during his time as a student) is like gumbo - there are ingredients that stand out, but if it is missing any of the supporting ingredients, it doesn't taste the same - some stand out at times depending on what is on the spoon.

Meet Jessica McIntare

This busy mama decided to go back to school after determining she did not want to be a waitress her entire life. She describes her position as a mother, student, and employee (she worked PRN as a Limited Radiologic Technician for St. Vincent Healthcare), as burning the midnight oil on both ends. Jessica explains, you are awake long after everyone has gone to sleep and before they get up, studying, doing laundry, etc.. 

Meet Jared Samuelson

Although he didn’t begin his college career as a father, this All-American hoop star was blessed with a daughter part way through school. As a member of the RMC basketball team, he juggled fathering and studying with lifting, practices, and games. Jared’s future includes more balancing of family, school, and basketball as he will play his final year of eligibility for basketball at the University of Montana in Missoula while also pursuing a Masters of Business Administration. He is grateful his daughter takes three-hour naps, which is when he can get a lot accomplished.

Meet Katrina Welch

This liberal arts turned nursing major decided to go back to school after working as a pharmacy technician and discovering her interest in the medical field. On managing all her responsibilities, she says, “Sometimes we don’t really know how to tell you what we need help with, but doing the little things is what really helps.” Little things include cleaning up, cooking dinner, sending us to the library or coffee shop to study, or taking over bedtime with the kids.  

One of the things that rang true for each of these recent graduates is that the choice to go back to school must be one the entire family agrees on. Eddie and Katrina both emphasized that everyone in the family has to be behind the decision to further your education, or it isn't going to work. They also explained that they would never have made it through without the help of their family and friends. Jessica explains that people always say it takes a village to raise children and that this rings especially true while going to school and working, in addition to raising a child.

Interestingly enough, not one of the interviewees said that finances were the most significant burden of going back to school. Instead, the greatest challenges they faced were making sure that they were giving enough attention to their families and their studies. All the interviewees agreed that family came first and said that the care of their family was a non-negotiable.

Eddie says, "I'm essentially doing this for the betterment of my family, so what's the point of doing it if my family isn’t my priority?” Jared explains that an additional challenge is taking care of yourself. To take care of family, studies, and work or athletics, you also have to figure out a way to take care of yourself which includes, Eddie adds, “Setting healthy margins - saying here is what my boundaries are, and I'm not going to cross them." None of the graduates regret their decision to attend college while raising families despite the challenges they each faced.

Considering Going Back to School?

If you or someone you know is thinking about going back to school and are unsure where or how to get started, you might begin with one of the Billings Adult and Community Education (Billings ACEd) programs offered through Billings Public Schools at the Lincoln Center. Anyone 16 years or older and not enrolled in high school is eligible for the resources provided by Billings ACEd.

The Basic Adult Education program offers FREE college and career planning, including preparation for HISET (formerly GED), TABE, and more. To learn more about this program, call (406) 281-5010.

The Community Education program offers specific certifications in the business, legal, or medical fields. Some of these include (among many): Accounting, Certified Nursing Assistant, Certified Phlebotomy Technician, Medical Coding, and Web Design. If you are not looking for a specific certificate program but for career advancement, there are many classes and resources available through this program to assist with those goals. Finally, the Community Education program is also available for those who simply love learning or are seeking personal enrichment. Classes range from art and language to fitness and outdoors. All Community Education classes are available at a low cost. To learn more about these certifications or courses, call (406) 281-5005.

Originally printed in the August 2019 issue of Simply Family Magazine

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