6 Things to Consider for Adults Going Back to School

6 Things to Consider for Adults Going Back to School

Time has progressively shown the value of education and has proven that the further along you go, the higher your salary will be depending on your profession. There has been an influx of adults choosing to go back to school just to keep up with the market and many adults are going back with an already full plate: full-time job, spouse, and kids. If you are a traditional college student (enroll and complete college straight after high school) there are tons of resources readily available for you. There is a large population of students who fall into the non-traditional route but provide a unique perspective in the classroom from being outside of it for so long. As a non-traditional student, I had to learn as I went and figure things out by failing and making other attempts until I got it right. There were some resources provided for me but I had to search deep down yonder for them. For those of us who happen to have more responsibilities than the average student, here are a few things to keep in mind if you are considering going back to school or finishing up your degree.

Identify the Purpose Behind Going Back

College is expensive and the price of education is never going to stop increasing. I personally believe in the value of formal education as well as real world schooling but I found purpose behind traditional higher education prior to going back. Are you going back just to say you went to college or is there opportunity for growth in your current field or you are considering switching fields? Prior to going back to school, I worked in a high school as a College Adviser where I constantly challenged my students to think critically about what it is they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. I am currently pursuing my Masters in Social Work with a concentration in Social & Economic Development and Policy. I see problems and I want to fix them but I also understand that in order for me to make a decent living, I need that degree.

“If money was never a factor and you could choose one thing to wake up to everyday, what would it be?”

Secure Funding

The cost of college isn’t just tuition. Add books, fees, health insurance, daily living expenses (rent, car insurance, phone bill, gas, etc.), childcare. It is never the sticker price. Essentially, it would be cheaper to attend a community college than a four-year university or at least spend the first couple years at a community college and transfer to save money. Will your current place of employment help pay for your education or reimburse you? Complete your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to see your eligibility for financial aid at www.fafsa.ed.gov. Contact the financial aid adviser at the universities of your choice to discuss funding options (loans, grants, scholarships, work study, etc.). Never take no as the first answer. I contacted my financial aid office several times until I was able to speak with the head person in charge about increasing my financial aid so I could cover all of my expenses. Remember, there is ALWAYS money.

Research Accommodations

My grandmother was 51 when she completed her Associate’s degree after having been married for over 30 years and 7 children. I cannot fathom how hard she had to work just to keep up and the amount of resources and support system she needed to be able to finish. As an adult student, our needs are different. It may take us a little longer to read and complete assignments, classmates may have to work around our schedule for group projects, professors may need to extend grace for us to submit assignments past the deadline and may need to allow us to bring our children to class if we aren’t able to find a sitter or take them to school. These are all questions that need to be asked prior to enrolling so departments on campus that cater to adult students are easily identified – that’s if the school offers resources for adult learners period. Do you have a learning disability and need to be accommodated for that? According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are 8.2 million people over the age of 25 million enrolled in college. That is a large percentage of people who require greater support to navigate their college journey.

Research Accommodations for Student-Parents

Being an adult learner is one thing but continuing your education with dependents is a whole different monster. Choosing to go back to school may require you to leave your full-time job or at least cut back on hours but that doesn’t mean your bills cut back and neither does the time that you have in a day. Does the school you are choosing to attend have a family-friendly policy? Does the financial aid office increase your package to accommodate childcare expenses? Is there a childcare center on campus and does it provide a subsidy and stipend for students to enroll their children there? How many other students attend that campus have children and can support each other? Are there readily accessible lactation centers throughout campus? Is there a policy in place to grant extensions if your child is sick and you aren’t able to attend campus that day to submit an assignment? College is so much more than completing a degree. It is a life-changing journey that affects more than just you so the babies need to feel as secure as you do.

Retention Rates & Testimonials

How long does it take students to graduate from the program? How long does it take students with children to graduate from the program? Have you reached out to alumni from that university to ask about their experience and what they are currently up to? Ask them what advice could they offer you to best help you make your decision on going back to school. Don’t invest the cash and time if the chances of you completing are slim to none. There are always exceptions, but fortunately, numbers don’t lie.

You will need help! You most likely need help now and you haven’t even started school yet. There will be times where you may need to enroll in an evening class or your child’s daycare/school is closed but you still have class. Who is in your life that you trust to help you while you finish your degree? Can watch the kids when you have class? Can pick the kids up/drop kids off when you aren’t able to? Can help tutor you if it’s a subject you don’t understand? Can slide over with a bottle of red wine when the semester just gets to be too much? Are there other students you can identify with (specifically minorities, older adults, and parents) and you all can support each other throughout the program? Inform the people closest to you about what you are getting ready to do and provide them a schedule and requests you have of them ahead of time. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to help you finish school.

Most importantly, it is never too late to acquire education. Whether that is formal or getting schooled in life. Enrolling in college is a milestone regardless of age and should be given much time, patience, and effort.

Have you thought about going back to school? If so, what do you want to go back for?

Black Health Matters-Especially Yours

Black Health Matters-Especially Yours

“I don’t care what the statistics say. This little Black girl believes in the power of prayer as well as counseling and therapy” – this is a status I posted a few months ago to FB and it continues to resonate. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to use this platform to address this topic as my very own mental health was threatened quite a bit over the past couple of months as well as the mental health of others who are close to me.

Being enrolled in a Social Work program, you are bombarded with statistics and information about marginalized & impoverished communities and a whole bunch of other academic terms. It gets beyond exhausting and discouraging to see Blacks at the bottom of every positive list and at the top of every negative list, relatively speaking. Historically, mental health and the Black population have had their own set of challenges. Even with all the pain our culture has endured for hundreds of years, one would think that alone would cause us to jump leaps and bounds to seek out help but our actions are the complete opposite and continues to be. According to Mental Health America, 63% of Blacks consider depression a personal weakness, 56% of Blacks believe depression is a “normal” part of aging, and Blacks are less likely to take antidepressants for treatment of depression.

Therein lies the problem. Not only is it a shared narrative that Blacks can inherently withstand harsh treatment and it is “normal” for us to suffer, but now we carry that same belief that continued pain, depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns are a normal part of our lives – that it’s just supposed to happen.

I, too, believed the hype. Back in February, I wrote a post titled No, I’m Not Ok and in there I made the claim that I was not depressed. D.E.N.I.A.L. Symptoms of depression reared its ugly head not too long after making that post and it affected my world a great deal.

On top of taking 18 credit hours in a graduate program (I will never do that again…EVER), 3 jobs, Addyson, my relationship, Mae’s Closet, social life…. I lost it. My desire for church fizzled out because Sunday mornings were the only time I could actually sleep in and that’s all I wanted to do. Besides, being in church only caused me to think about all the things I still needed to get done that day once church was over. My appetite decreased causing me to lose weight (hell, I’m already small), Addyson & I would go weeks at a time with the same hairstyle because I simply did not have the time nor the energy to switch it up, I grew irritable and moody but everything I was doing would continue to feed my depression rather than address it. My craving to stay busy was the very thing that enhanced my mental health concern and I didn’t know how to get out of the cycle. To this day, I am still battling with the idea of taking a break and not feeling guilty about it because “things still need to get done.”

Let’s just say, I’ve come to the end of myself and only by prayer and wise counsel from others am I able to get back to a healthy state of mind. The idea of enduring pain for long periods of time and sitting in “funks” no longer felt normal to me and I wanted to do something about it. That’s the crazy thing about depression. You hate the state that you are in but it becomes so comfortable that the idea of physically having to do something different causes even greater anxiety and you fall into a state of complacency. Don’t let social media images and successful posts fool you. I’ve attained a lot this year and last year and am very grateful for it, yet and still, feelings of gloom still consumed me.

Having quiet time with God in the mornings before I started my day used to give me a great boost but the idea of having to get up early in the morning would mean I would have to miss out on much-needed sleep and I wasn’t ready for that – even though I knew it would help.

Eating healthier meals would help me focus more on my work and give me the energy to keep up with my busy lifestyle but that would mean I would have to actually cook more often and meal prep, and I just didn’t feel like it.

See where I am going with this?

Depression is a constant cycle of defeat and if we aren’t careful, it is so easy to get stuck there.

Since coming to the end of myself, I’ve forced myself to get up and attend church service, made some healthier food purchases, removed some social media apps from my phone until I’m ready to hop back on, and for the first time in SEEEEEEVERAL months, I had quiet time with God this morning. Rather than pouring a cup of coffee, I had a smoothie. All baby steps BUT it’s a start and today, I feel better.

Depression isn’t normal. Suicidal thoughts aren’t normal. Not eating isn’t normal. All these things are very common but it doesn’t make it normal. They are all a detriment to our livelihood and we have to take these things seriously when they arrive.

Even though it doesn’t feel like it, we have control over those thoughts.Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”– 2 Corinthians 10:5

Just because the seed of depression is planted doesn’t mean we have to water it.

Seek help. Unashamed. Black, White, Green, Fluorescent Beige – whatever your color is. There are professionals in the field whose sole job is to provide that counsel to get us through those seasons.

Address that feeling of being down and feeling complacent. Stop normalizing suffrage and reclaim joy. Research different therapists and counselors in your area, what your insurance/employer will cover, and what sessions are free. The resources are out there. We just need to take that step towards peace..

“Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” – 2 Corinthians 3:17

God Bless,

Alana Marie

No, I’m Not Ok- And That’s Ok

No, I’m Not Ok- And That’s Ok

Can I just be real with y’all for a second? I finally put myself in a position to sit down and just…write. No first drafts, no edits, just pure & raw emotion with fingers to the keyboard. This is definitely new for me as I am very self-conscious about my writing before I press PUBLISH. I re-read a good 3-4 times and switch out words before I deem my posts “share worthy.” This time, I just wanted to get it out.

For those who keep up with me via real life, social media, and this blog, you can probably say you are aware of my daily happenings, where-a-bouts, and even a great deal of my character. For the most part, I’m pretty much an open book. Everybody knows I’m in school for my Masters (well with the exception of those who thought I was still working at the high school….I guess I do move kind of quick), everybody knows I have a six-year-old, everybody SHOULD know that my passion for black fatherhood runs deep, and many know of the amount of loss that I’ve had in my family over the past 20 months.

To be completely honest, I am going through. I am still trying to figure out what all my “going through” season entails but I am. I can come off very optimistic (because I truly am), very dependable, passionate, and constantly at peace with life’s happenings. I try to bring a positive spirit to those around me and truth be told (unless you truly TRULY know me), if there was something wrong with me, the people around me would never know. But now, I am tired. I’m beyond tired- I’m mentally, emotionally, and physically tired. Before the violins start playing and the texts start rolling in, let me provide some context:

May 2014: My grandmother passed away in her sleep (Father’s mother).

August 2014: I lost my aunt to cancer (Father’s sister).

October 2014: My cousin and her husband were both killed in a car accident/ a few hours later, my daughter and I were in a car accident that totaled my car and knocked my hip out of place with minimal nerve damage in my left arm).

November 2014: My grandmother suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed (Mom’s mother) & my uncle suffered that same stroke two weeks later (Father’s brother).

January 2015: My uncle suffered a minor stroke but he quickly recovered (Mom’s brother)

March 2015: My aunt (aunt of my cousin) lost her battle with cancer only after finding out 3 weeks prior

May 2015: My surviving grandmother passed away from complications of her stroke (Mom’s mother)

August 2015: Younger cousin was killed by a St. Louis police officer

February 2016: Uncle passed away from cardiac arrest (same uncle that suffered paralyzing stroke/ Father’s brother).

Y’all…… I aint never sat in so many pews and faced so many caskets and urns in my life. The obituaries are stacking up and I don’t like looking at them so I keep them in the closet. I don’t know what to do with all the “With Sympathy” cards I receive from church members and close friends so I put them in a shoe box. Our name stays in the church bulletin as the family to pray for. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to be surrounded by so many that have a genuine concern for my family but internally my spirit is like, “Dang, Lord. Can you soften up a bit?”

That leads me to the point of the post. I am venting but I want readers to be able to grasp some take-a-ways. In this season of great loss, there are a few things that God is making me aware of and that I want to share with those who can relate:

  • We are all going to have our day. Not to put a damper on an already somber post, but yes, we are all going to leave here one day. I don’t care what higher being you serve, that is one commonality amongst all humans. We can all agree to that. With that said, He is reminding me that the life I currently have is a gift and my purpose should be utilizing this gift for His glory. What all does that entail? I’m still figuring that out.
  • It is ok to NOT be ok. With every loss or every instance that stings, I deliberately convince myself that I am ok because I have to be ok. I have to be ok because Addy needs me, because school work needs to be done, because life still goes on, because (insert excuse here). All that convincing led me straight to a burnout. All it took was an EWF song to come on the radio that took my thoughts to childhood and 1 tear turned into 100. I didn’t allow myself to grieve. I acknowledged that life happened and I kept moving like it didn’t happen. Don’t be like me. Be NOT ok so you can ultimately be ok with time.
  • My family members are chillin. I truly believe that. I am a believer. I may not be the type of believer people feel I should be or look like the believer that people feel I should look like, but I know who holds my heart. With that said, I know who I serve and I know whose hands my family members are resting in. Have you ever sat and talked with an elder and they looked you in the eye and told you, “I am ready to be with Jesus.” Can you imagine that type of peace? That type of faith? That type of tired? My grandmother would say that all the time and I believed her. I miss her…miss her dearly. But there wasn’t anything on this Earth that I could do for her, or anyone could do for her, that could provide that eternal peace and faith.
  • Lastly, God is not punishing me! Man, I can honestly say I wholeheartedly believe this but I am spending time trying to convince others the same. Not my place, I know. But punishment is not how He operates. He allows happenings & He brings things to your attention, but punishment – that’s not even His MO.  “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” – Romans 8:1. That false image of God could lead us down a long road that we had no business traveling down in the first place. If we just took the time to get to know His character. Conviction NOT condemnation.

To close so I just don’t have y’all constantly scrolling down (if you are still reading, that is), I am going through and currently, I am not ok….but I will be. I still love life, all the things I have going for me, my child, my God, but no, as a believer, currently I am NOT ok and that is ok. I know I won’t get stuck here. No, I’m not depressed and no I’m not hopeless. I am allowing myself to go through this season. That’s a huge slap in the face to God to remain in one spot, including grief. If you are going through, allow yourself to go through. There is no cookie-cutter way to mourn and grief. There isn’t a go-to manual to describe the proper way to do it and for how long. We just do.

If you see me and ask me how I am doing, I may just tell you the truth. It may come with a tear or two but allow me that moment. That space. As I will respect you enough to do the same.

*wipes thug tears away*

Thank y’all for listening.

Stay Blessed.

Alana Marie

Randomness for the Win: How I Started Writing for xoNecole

Randomness for the Win: How I Started Writing for xoNecole

If you haven’t heard the news already, I am now one of the official contributors for xoNecole.com! (formerly NecoleBitchie) I am very excited about this opportunity as I can promise you, this was not on my radar just a few months ago. People have asked me, “Alana, how did you get on” so I’d figure I’d go into true blogger fashion and write about it.

Anybody who knows me knows how random I am: from the things I blurt out to the things that I do so this is how the story begins.

I was online one evening doing absolutely nothing productive and I randomly thought about Necole making that IG post saying that NecoleBitchie was no more. I was curious to know was her new brand, xoNecole, up and running so I went to her page to find the link for the site which was still under construction. I found the editor’s email address under the Contact Us tab and sent over an email that said:

First and foremost,

I am extremely proud of Necole for taking that leap of faith and following her conviction in what she knew in her heart to do. NecoleBitchie had a large following and probably disappointed a lot of people when the decision was made to go elsewhere but WHO CARES! Major dope move and from one sistah girl to the next, I am excited to see projects forthcoming.

I am an aspiring blogger as well trying to find my niche in this world (as well as a mother, graduate student, potential fiance, thrifter, awesome friend, lover of Bobby Womack, etc).

This may or may not ever be read by your eyes, but if it does, I hope it blesses you. This is all I experience and all I say placed into a blog  for the world to read, relate, empathize, and love.

I hope you get all 4.

God Bless

I sent her the link to the post I made about my younger brother and 10 minutes later I got an email in my inbox with a response from her saying:

Alana, thank you!

Sometimes the road gets tough but I have to keep it pushing for those who believe in me. This has been a fun ride. I hope your brother is still doing okay. Powerful post. And congrats on your upcoming engagement 🙂 “- Necole

Awwwwwww Snaps!!! Made a young writer feel super encouraged. I remained on the site and found a tab that said Join the XOTribe. They were looking for people who were college students, savvy with social media, excellent communication skills, and excited about the XO brand just to name a few. One of the perks of being an ambassador is getting priority story submissions. I was sold from then on. I filled out the form (which is still available on the site for those being an XOTribe ambassador) and 3 weeks later I got an email saying I was accepted.

Win!

So far, it’s been a dope experience. 2 of my articles have already been published on the site: 7 Things I Learned.. and #ConcernedAlum and both have received good feedback thus far. As of early November, I received an email from Necole stating that a slot opened for an official contributor position on the site and I accepted!

I just like to write and enjoy the fact that others can relate to it. To know that my passion for writing has taken the notice of Necole and others can trip me up sometimes. It’s amazing and I am grateful.

Randomness for the WIN!

I am a firm believer that what’s random to us is pre-determined by Christ.

I don’t know where writing will take me, but for where I am now, there are no complaints.

Don’t be afraid to step out of the box!

Don’t be afraid to reach out to people! People get so caught up in the “professional” way to do things and grow fearful of how they will be received.

JUST DO IT!

Opportunity awaits you. Whose inbox you gone hit up tonight? 🙂

God Bless,

Alana Marie

#ConcernedAlum My Black Mizzou Experience

#ConcernedAlum My Black Mizzou Experience

Like many others over the past few days, I have been fully immersed in what’s been going on at the University of Missouri (Mizzou). What’s different is, I am not looking at it through the lens of an opinionated media consumer. I am seeing my alma mater being scrutinized by the comments section on news outlets, I am following people on my TL who are enduring the negativity on MU’s campus currently, and I am constantly going back and forth on social media with people who JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND. #guilty

I do believe from the outside looking in, many people have the assumption that current Mizzou  students and alumni carry a great disdain for our university and that we had an awful experience. I can’t speak for everybody, but for me and many of my classmates that I keep in touch with, that is definitely NOT the case. I loved my time at Mizzou. I had so many pivotal moments in undergrad and it is all a part of my story. (1) I found out I was carrying my daughter while at Mizzou (2) I got saved at Mizzou (3) I was president of the student-parent organization at Mizzou (4) I met the man I’m dating now at Mizzou (5) My first full-time job as a College Adviser was referred to me from an adviser while at Mizzou (6) I got to experience the first black man become President of the U.S at Mizzou……..so many memories. With that said, all was not flowers and roses. Although I never experienced overt racism on campus personally, I’ve witnessed it on several occasions and many people I am close to have shared so many disheartening stories of racist & discriminatory instances.

I vividly remember the time my friend was walking home with her daughter from the Black Culture Center (another fellow student-parent on MU’s campus) after an evening of studying, and a pick-up truck with a confederate flag sticker on the back full of white boys shouting, “Yeah nigger, you and your nigger baby keep walking!” She just stood there in fear not knowing if these boys would stop and do something to her and her child. With tears in her eyes, she told me she never felt so weak in her life because she didn’t know how she would protect her child if something were to happen to her. She filed a complaint but on a campus with 30,000+ students and thousands of white boys who drive pick-up trucks with confederate flags (because there are several), I mean really, what could’ve been done? Does this story sound familiar? That’s because it is. Payton Head, MSA President, shared a very similar story. Apparently, yelling nigger from pick-up trucks is all too common on this campus.

And the time my co-worker, El, who got accused of coming late to class every day and received a 70% for the course (he was on time every single day and just happened to be the only black person in the course…)

or

my co-worker Alice who is assumed to be on campus by affirmative action or scholarship because she couldn’t possibly be there by merit…

or

my former classmate Kamaria who found a picture of Obama with a monkey taped over his face on her dorm wall shortly after the 2008 Presidential election….

or

the cotton balls being scattered all across the BCC, Black History Month being addressed as “Nigger Month,” the fact that we have our own homecoming because our participation was never wanted in the University’s homecoming…

and don’t get me started on the microaggressions that I’m sure extends way past Mizzou:

being the only black student in class, being the token student to address all matters of Black History Month, slavery, and MLK, never having a black professor (3 months into graduate school at the age of 25 and I NOW have my first black professor), being put in groups and getting assigned the simple task because other white peers assume I can’t handle the task, black history course being an elective, but all other history courses are required. Unfortunately, the list is endless.

For the individuals at Mizzou who showed genuine love and concern for me during my time there:

Vicki (white woman)- academic adviser who never judged me when I told her (as a freshman) I was pregnant but still needed help scheduling my courses. Continued working with me when I left Mizzou to make sure I was still on task and had all my stuff together for when I came back in 2012

Susan (white woman)- offered me my only campus job (through an email sent on accident) and always worked with my schedule. Never hesitating to learn more about me and my family and ALWAYS showed genuine love and concern for Addy and I.

Carol (white woman)- internship director who provided a space for me to do work while my child was there which is one of the main reasons I was able to graduate. Continues to invite me to current events and to come speak on behalf of the organization. My daughter and I are still used for promo for their awesome organization

Dr. Porter (white man)- this dude is awesome sauce. He’s the one who gave me my diploma on December 15, 2012. A day I will never forget…

Please understand, if we hated this place, we wouldn’t be so passionate about change. We wouldn’t be exerting this much energy into it. We would have just left. Period. We love Mizzou. The fact is, we should be able to attend  a University (regardless of being the minority) and it should be ok to want to be treated with respect, receive the same quality education as our peers that we are PAYING for, choose a PWI rather than an HBCU and not be scrutinized for that, choose to walk in solidarity with our classmates as a student-athlete and not have to worry about our scholarships getting revoked, walk around campus without being called a nigger in 2015, feel free to express our rights when we feel as though they have been violated and not fear for my safety on my own campus…….

You called us thugs and hoodlums when a select few rioted and burned businesses of Ferguson (very VERY select few), but when we remain civilized and use strategy and peaceful protest, WE ARE STILL HATED!!!! Damned if we do. Damned if we don’t.

Why is our self-love so intimidating?

With prayers of peace and reconciliation, I still stand with pride of my alma mater.

#MIZ #ZOU

#ConcernedAlum

2012-10-31 21.21.18

Monday Motivation

Monday Motivation

(T)HANK (G)OD (I)T’S (M)ONDAY!

It shouldn’t have to be Friday in order to enjoy your week. “Monday Blues” or “Mundane Mondays” or whatever you call it. How you perceive Mondays can have a huge affect on how you go about your day/ how you go about your week.

“How can I celebrate TGIM?”

Glad you asked.

Sunday night preparation is KEY! Sundays are supposed to be a day of rest but in Alana’s world, that typically does not happen. I’m slowly but surely reserving my Sunday evenings strictly for preparation.

  • Meal prep my lunches for the week.
  • Giving Addy a bath, doing her hair, dinner, and setting out both of our clothes for the next day.
  • Putting an “oldie but goodie” on the record player (typically Bobby Womack or Isley Brothers).
  • Cleaning/organizing my apartment. I CANNOT work in a cluttered space.
  • Pulling out my planner and assessing what I’ve done, what needs to be done, and take the loss on what I did not get done and make an attempt to complete it at a later date.
  • REST!

I love Mondays! I feel like it is a fresh start and I can set the tone for the week. I know I don’t necessarily have full control over what happens throughout the week but I can control my response to what happens. I have my days where I spazz out so I’ve been working on self-preservation tactics to keep my sanity. Self-affirmation is EVERYTHING!

Hate your job? Find ONE thing that makes clocking in worthwhile.

Classwork stressful? Create an environment that makes sitting down and doing work tolerable (music , food, table at Starbucks, etc).

It’s a shame if you have to wait until Friday to enjoy yourself. You have to let 5 whole days pass before you feel an ounce of excitement.

Carry peace ALL throughout the week.

HAPPY MONDAY!