For RBA student Tara Turley, earning her bachelor’s degree is about much more than the academic prestige. It’s about setting an example of determination, hard work and the power of education for her two growing daughters.
“I wanted to pursue my degree so that I would always have something that no one could ever take away from me again,” Turley said. “No matter what I do with my life or where I go, I will always have the satisfaction of a higher education and the ability to feed my children.”
Turley’s path to the RBA program at CEHS began when she was laid off from the job she’d held since graduating high school. Determined to forge a new career path and support her family, Turley enrolled in a vocational training program to become a certified electrician. After completing the 44-week program, Turley started working as an electrician, ultimately deciding to join a union and pursue an apprenticeship in the field.
By combining her apprenticeship with night classes she had completed over the years, Turley was able to earn a Board of Governors associate’s degree from Bridge Valley Community and Technical College in Charleston, W.Va. Through her apprenticeship program’s connection with the American Council on Education (ACE), Turley applied for and was selected as ACE’s student of the year for 2017.
“It was pretty cool,” Turley said. “They gave me a scholarship, so I was able use that toward schooling.”
After Turley’s adviser from Bridge Valley Community and Technical College encouraged her to pursue her bachelor’s degree, Turley selected CEHS’ RBA program for its flexibility and the opportunity to include her prior coursework and apprenticeship experience. Along the way, her adviser Colton Metzger has helped her find a path of study that fits her interests.
Today, Turley is in her third semester of the program and is pursuing minors in business administration and human services. She hopes to use her courses to find a way to support people in the construction industry.
“I have become increasingly interested in the safety side of things in the construction industry,” Turley said. “I want to be able to help people and keep them safe while performing their jobs. I believe that the communication skills I’m acquiring with the human services minor will certainly behoove me in that endeavor.”
Turley has pursued a full course schedule since starting work on her RBA in the summer of 2016, and she’s managed to balance it all with a full-time job as an electrician, continued work on her electrical apprenticeship and raising her daughters, ages 12 and 14. Often, Turley will sit at her kitchen table with her daughters so they can all do their homework together.
“They see me do my homework, and they have done better in school since I started this,” Turley said. “When I first lost my job, we were really in a bad place. I wanted my daughters to see tenacity, and I wanted them to learn what it is to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and to keep going.”
Turley plans to complete her RBA coursework in the summer of 2018.