Jaci B. – Masters of Environmental Science

Four years ago I found myself suddenly single with two kids to support- one of which is severely handicapped. I had already gotten my bachelor’s degree, which I thought would be an adequate safety net for the situation. So I began aggressively job hunting all over the states of Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Washington, thinking surely I would be able to support us with my degree. It quickly became clear that this was not the case. After months of no success, I finally accepted a job that only paid $9 an hour. It was discouraging to be working for so little and at a job that really had nothing to do with my degree, but with two children, limited resources, and not a little desperation, I was grateful for what I could get.

It was during this same time period of job hunting that I began to more seriously consider going back to school. I had always wanted to keep going and get my master’s degree, but it only just now seemed like a feasible option. One of my biggest concerns was my children.

What would I do with them while I was at school?

How would it impact them emotionally to have me gone so much?

How could I make sure my handicapped daughter wouldn’t get neglected and left in a corner at some second-rate daycare?

When would I fit in homework around two small children?

At one point I was telling my concerns to my mom, when she gave me some excellent advice. She told me that I had two options: I could keep working at a low paying job with little opportunity for advancement, or I could go back to school and get a degree. Either way, two years were going to pass, what I chose to accomplish in those years was entirely up to me. This advice really did the trick and I began submitting applications to graduate programs. A few months later I was accepted to a master’s program.

It was scary. I was moving hours away from my family with two children under the age of four to start a graduate program at a huge university that I felt had grossly overestimated my abilities in accepting me. We moved into the University Family Housing complex just two blocks from the University.

With school only a month away, daycare accommodations for my kids was one of the biggest stressors for me. I didn’t want my kids to end up in a gross, dirty, under-staffed daycare. I was especially concerned about my daughter. With cerebral palsy, she requires extra attention and cannot interact and play quite the same as other children. So I contacted the on-campus daycare director and explained the situation with my daughter.

They were more than just accommodating; they were delighted to include her in their program! With my kids so happily situated in such a good program, I had the peace of mind to attend classes and the focus to complete the coursework without worrying about their well-being. With the resources I had found, I was able to complete my degree in the shortest amount of time possible.

Although there were obviously complications with getting a higher degree while trying to raise two small children, I will always say that it is one of the best decisions I’ve made for their future and for mine. Two years after I started, I graduated with my master’s degree. We were all a little older, but the experience was a good one, and now I can look back at those two years and know that what I chose to accomplish will positively impact our lives forever.

Jaci B.

Masters of Environmental Science

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