To say that life has been eventful for Becky Hopper since the last time that we featured her as a student would be a major understatement. In 2017, when we first interviewed Hopper, we highlighted her five-year plan. Even then, her story was rooted in resilience. (This is an excellent time to stop reading and grab a handful of tissues.)
As a brief recap, Becky Hopper relocated to Broome County in 2007 to redirect her life. Prior to moving to the region, Becky devoted her time to being a wife and mother, while also overseeing her children’s home-school curriculum. When life took some unexpected turns, Hopper found herself living across the country, as a single mother, who needed to re-enter the workforce.
Hopper became employed by a local insurance company which provided the family-friendly schedule that she needed as a single parent of young children. As the years passed, and her children entered high school, Hopper took some time to reflect, and realized that she felt unfulfilled professionally. Searching for guidance, Hopper sent a “pour your heart out” email to a trusted friend who immediately replied with a specific directive, “you need to go to school and become a social worker.”
“My friend never questioned my ability. To her, it was just a given that I would succeed as a college student. This support was foreign to me, because I never had any kind of encouragement to be educated prior to this. The reason I didn’t even consider going to college after high school was because my father convinced me that I wasn’t smart enough. Now, decades later, I was being told that not only was I smart enough, but that I needed to do this,” said Hopper.
Thanks to her friend’s encouragement, Hopper enrolled at SUNY Broome in the Human Services program in the summer of 2015. Given the packed schedule that accompanies being a working, single parent, Hopper decided that it was in her best interest to ease into college and elected to take only one class in her first semester. She settled on English 110 (College Writing).
Not only did she excel in the class, but she befriended her professor, English Chairperson Mary Seel.
“I thought that College Writing would be an epic fail, but I ended up getting an A in the class. But the best part of taking that class was that it connected me to Mary Seel. We immediately bonded. Maybe because we are both from the South? I asked Mary if she would be my Academic Advisor and she kindly agreed.”
Hopper’s confidence grew with the completion of each semester. So much so, that she decided to alter her plans.
“At the time, my one class a semester plan was ideal. I worked full-time, was a single mom, and was able to take my classes either online on my schedule or in the evenings. Even though I was still proud of my accomplishments, I hit a point where I felt like I wasn’t making progress fast enough. So, I contacted Mary Seel and together we crafted a more aggressive plan. We mapped out that I would take three classes in the spring semester, two in the summer semester, and three in the fall. With that, I would be totally done with my degree,” she explained.
On the first day of her busiest semester, Hopper started her day with her usual 6:00 a.m. spin class. At the conclusion of her workout, she headed into the locker room and was overcome with excruciating pain that radiated from her chest to her head. Hopper managed to pull herself together and call for an ambulance. A CT scan highlighted a substantial tear in her aorta, which required emergency, open-heart surgery. As Becky was being prepped for surgery, she asked a friend to contact two critical people. “Could you please call my mom and could you please text Mary Seel,” she requested.
“I was so worried about missing my first day of classes, especially during a semester that I had specifically chosen to tackle a heavier workload and I knew that Mary Seel would help me contact my professors and explain that this major life emergency just popped up,” she said.
Though thankfully, Hopper’s emergency surgery was deemed a success, she was met with an incredibly rough recovery. The combination of the natural physical healing process, coupled by postoperative cognitive issues and post-cardiac depression, left Becky with some additional challenges as she managed to work her way through her busiest and most difficult semester.
“I really was struggling. I kept forgetting things and had moments where I couldn’t remember how to do my job. Depression is common after open-heart surgery and I definitely struggled with it. To top it all off, I was hit with menopause, which is a special experience on its own, let alone with all of these additional mental and physical hurdles. But I kept plugging away. I was determined to earn my degree,” shared Hopper.
Just as Hopper was coming to her final semester at SUNY Broome, the Covid-19 pandemic halted the world. Like so many of us, Hopper was conflicted on how and where to spend her time in lockdown. Her mother and sister were living in Florida and were struggling with health issues, but her children and her job were in New York.
“I just prayed for guidance. I prayed that I would be able to finish my final class, graduate, and then be able to care for them. I just asked for God to lead me in the right direction,” said Hopper.
Heartbreakingly, a truly tragic set of events lead to Becky Hopper to lose both her mother and her sister to Covid-19 within a span of five days, just as the semester was coming to a close.
“While I wasn’t able to be with them personally, I was able to speak to my sister on the phone and read her the 23rd Psalm. I was also able to stay on the phone with my mom as she passed away.”
Once again, Hopper was faced with overwhelming life obstacles as she tried to complete her degree. Hopper needed to come up with an action plan that would help her finish her final class, travel to Florida, coordinate two funerals, and manage two estates with all of the accompanying paperwork. She knew that she couldn’t do this alone, so she reached out to her village.
“I am so thankful to have an amazing support system in Binghamton, NY and Jacksonville, FL. One thing that I have learned over the years is that when people ask “How can I help,” the best thing that you can do is to give them a specific example of something that would be truly helpful. That way they can put their desire to be supportive into action. I was able to ask for help with things like having a friend drive us to the airport and having a friend collect our mail while we were away. Friends in Florida majorly helped with coordinating the funerals, so that I could finish up my final projects and papers for my class. This was an incredibly hard time in my life, and yet I felt the goodness of God everywhere that I turned,” said Hopper.
Among all of the trials and tribulations, Becky Hopper successfully graduated and earned her Associate of Science (AS) degree in Human Services. Covid-19 prevented SUNY Broome from hosting an in-person graduation ceremony, so Hopper participated in the virtual graduation from her mother’s living room.
“I was so sad that my mother missed my graduation and my fiftieth birthday, but I was still able to celebrate my accomplishments, even if it wasn’t the way that I had originally planned.”
Hopper is thriving in the field of Human Services. She finally found the professional fulfillment that initially brought her to SUNY Broome in 2015. Her work with a local pregnancy resource center allows her to help new mothers and fathers in our community before, during, and after the birth of a child via providing access to pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and parenting classes taught by Hopper.
Becky Hopper had a plan, and though it had a few unexpected hurdles along the way, she was able, through incredibly hard work, to see that plan to fruition. If you are inspired by Becky’s story, it’s not too late to come to SUNY Broome for the Spring 2022 semester! Learn more about SUNY Broome’s admissions process for the Spring 2022 semester.
Tags: Student Profile