Sometimes, the path to a college degree becomes sidetracked by life changes – and not just the unpleasant ones.
Take Junelle Perry. She first attended SUNY Broome at the age of 19, but left college after having her son and adjusting to motherhood. She tried again a few years later, but left again after having her daughter and instead became a stay-at-home mom.
But she knew that she one day wanted to earn her degree – and the third time was the charm.
“When my daughter went to school, I wanted to do something for myself and I registered for classes. That was three years ago and I was a nervous wreck,” said Junelle, who is earning her degree in Business Administration at the end of the Fall 2019 semester.
She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the community college honor society, and will start her next chapter at Binghamton University’s School of Management next spring, majoring in accounting. Her long-term goal: to become a certified public accountant, and continue to give back to the community she calls home.
Why accounting? “I’ve always loved math and numbers. I like how with math it’s black or white, it’s right or wrong,” she explained.
Her academic success, however, was hard-won. “There was always a delicate balance for me between my role as a mom and my role as a student,” she said.
One of the most important parts of her day is the initial walk from her car onto campus, which allows her to transition from her identity as a parent to one as a student. When she is on campus, her education is her priority, and she often tackles her homework between classes. That way, at home she can focus on her other priority – as mom.
If you’re a woman returning to college after some time away, Junelle would like to offer you some encouragement – much like the encouragement she has received along the way.
“Women don’t have to put their career goals on hold anymore. I do it, and you can too,” she said.
Out of the comfort zone
She has learned a great deal from all of her professors, as well as staff members such as David Weintraub, director of the Math Lab, where she spends a significant amount of time each week.
Favorite professors include Jesse Katen in English, Timmy Bremer in math, and Carla Michalak in political science. After a math course she needed for the School of Management was canceled, Professor Bremer led an independent study that allowed her to get the coursework she needed.
When she struggled during her first semester and doubted her abilities, Professor Katen encouraged her to push on. That support meant a great deal, she said.
Her education also brought her some unexpected opportunities. In Professor Michalak’s class, she learned about the NEW Leadership New York program through the University at Albany’s Center for Women in Government and Civil Society. The weeklong, undergraduate leadership program for women was a major step outside Junelle’s comfort zone – and an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.
The first obstacle: She needed $500 to apply. Enter former Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer Francis Battisti – also a UAlbany alum. The experience ended up changing Junelle’s perspectives.
“What a program that was! I got to meet some of the most influential women in New York State,” she said. “In the beginning of the program, they said this experience is what you make of it. Jesse Katen told me that excuses don’t make degrees. I asked questions and carried those things back to the classroom. It’s important sometimes to push yourself out of your comfort zone.”
During these past three years at SUNY Broome, Junelle Perry as grown – as a student, a future business professional and also as a person. She has risen to the challenge of her education, and found strengths she didn’t initially see.
“I’m really going to miss it here, but it’s prepared me for the next step in my life. I’m going to be just as successful there as I was here,” she said. “Thank you, SUNY Broome!”