Becky Hopper is on the five-year plan, but she’s okay with that.

“When I get my degree, it’s not going to say, ‘Becky Hopper did it in five years instead of two,’” she reflected. “It’s just going to say: ‘Becky Hopper, you rock! Becky Hopper, you didn’t give up.’”

A native of Orange Park, Florida, this is Hopper’s first time in college. After graduating high school, “life happened,” as she put it: she married, had children and spent her days homeschooling them.

Then, about eight years ago, that life changed dramatically. Hopper headed north, where friends in Apalachin helped her start over. At the time, she had only $200 to her name, no car and no job. Four months later, she landed an entry-level position at a local insurance company.

Through the years, she settled into life in the Southern Tier. She enjoys her job, and was promoted several times. But with her sons about to graduate high school, she began to turn her eye to the wider horizon and ponder her future. She had always wanted to go to school, but lacked a direction.

She asked a friend who works at a local school district for advice.

“I love people. What could I do for a living?” Hopper asked. “She told me, ‘This county needs social workers. You’d be a great social worker.’”

Last summer, at the age of 44, she signed up for her first college class at SUNY Broome: College Writing. She did well, following it up with College Writing 2, psychology and philosophy. Most of her courses have been online, although she took psychology with Professor Courtney O’Hagen on campus, which she found to be an extraordinary experience.

One class per semester works well for this single mom, who juggles her studies with a full-time job and a healthy gym habit. She’s expanding her horizons – and having fun at the same time. Thanks to a Pell grant, most of her costs are covered.

“I feel like God can’t steer a parked car,” the Human Services major said of her decision to enroll. “Five years is going to pass no matter what. What am I going to have to show for it? I’m creating options for myself.”

Considering going back to school later in life, or for the first time? Take a step to reach your goal, Hopper advises.

“Take one class at a time, if that’s all you can do,” she said. “Once you have an education, no one can take that away from you.”