Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Student Profile: Shayna Andrews

Students like Shayna Andrews are the reason Rio Salado College prides itself on offering flexible, affordable and accessible education to anyone with an interest in learning.

With an adventurer’s spirit, Andrews stepped out on her own and moved from Los Angeles to Phoenix at the end of her teen years. She then spent the majority of her adult life as a stay-at-home wife and mother.

When her marriage ended, Andrews rejoined the workforce, but after a 10 year absence, she struggled to find her place.

“I often took low paying jobs so that I could work a schedule that allowed me to be home in the evenings and weekends. After a year of working an awful job, I knew I needed to go back to school,” Andrews said, “I just didn’t want to live the rest of my life working like that.”

Although it has not been easy to balance a work schedule, school, and motherhood, Andrews said she feels that the ends are well worth the means.

“I think my struggles are the same as most working parents. I never seem to have enough time to do all that I would like to do,” Andrews said. “Something inevitably has to give.”

With so much on her plate, Andrews says her role as a mother is still the most important and it’s obvious that her daughter is a source of strength and determination. “Being back in school has allowed me to be available to my daughter in ways I couldn’t punching a clock 9-5.”

Andrews credits her own mother and grandmother with encouraging her to always continue learning.

“There are two things that I think have largely shaped how I value education. I remember my grandmother used to say to me all the time that no matter how old you get, you never stop learning. And my mom always told me how smart I was and how capable of learning I was,” Andrews said. “I see the truth in those statements for myself, but also for everyone. I think everyone is capable of learning.”

“There is a joy that comes with mastery. I think the key is to find what it is you want to be educated in and when you do, it’s fun to learn.” Andrews said. She went on to explain, “I taught ballet to very young students when I lived in Phoenix and one of the greatest joys was to watch them realize that doing things that were hard work and required discipline can be fun, too.”

Andrews is currently working toward an Associate degree and hopes to pursue a career in health care or fitness and recreation.

“Overall, I would say that I am looking for better options,” Andrews said. “Currently I am focused on getting my AA. Once that is accomplished, I will look at the needs of myself and my daughter and determine if getting my bachelor’s degree is the right thing at that time,” Andrews said. “Sometimes, things are just about timing.”

Andrews said she had been interested in leaving the Valley for several years, but the right opportunity was slow in presenting itself. When a childhood friend told her about Murfreesboro, she did a little research and decided that Tennessee would be a good place to live.

For the second time in her life, Andrews decided to leave everything that was familiar and venture out on her own. One week later she crossed the Mississippi River and found herself at home.

One might think that such an upheaval would be a drastic set back, but Andrews is both cautious and resourceful.

“In the planning to move across the country, I allocated a one semester hiatus in order to establish residency and save up some money to pay for tuition,” Andrews says in her blog. “In my desperate desire to get back to school, somehow- someway, I began dreaming about where I’d like to attend here in Tennessee. I started to look at programs and schedules and tuition costs. I began to think outside the box. I made calls. ”

As it turns out she was still eligible for financial aid, but the spring semester had already started. Attending school locally was not going to be possible, but Andrews was undaunted.

“I contacted Rio Salado College, the community college I attended in Phoenix that specializes in distance learning,” Andrews said. “Knowing that classes begin every Monday and being familiar with the interface, I knew I could start in March and still finish by the end of May. “

By taking online classes from Rio Salado College, Andrews was able to make a cross country move without taking a break or interrupting her momentum.

“I am incredibly grateful that higher education is available to me, that it affords me the ability to be home to do the ‘mom thing’, and that I can work hard to accomplish something that is forever mine.”

Andrews writes a blog called The Making of a Southern Girl to chronicle her transition from “California Girl” to “Southern Belle” and agreed to share her story with us hoping that other single parents will find the same encouragement she has received from others.

“Keep going! Even if you have to slow down for one reason or another, just keep going. There are many single parents who have walked this road before us. If they can do it, we can too. To add to that, one thing I have learned in my education journey, sometimes strategy is key. Consider the difficulty or the time particular classes will take. Know your stride. Know your limitations; then work within that.”

Andrews says that she does not define success by external benchmarks but prefers to use internal measures of achievement.

“Knowing that I have done my personal best, I have peace with God in my heart regarding the direction of my life, and I am content in the direction I am heading. There will always be things that I would like to change, improve, do away with… But if I have strong relationships and I am moving in the direction to change, improve or do away with those things, than I am successful.”