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Melanie Bishop lived in Washington, Mo., until 1990, working for a Fortune 500 company. She knew her work offered only lateral movement, with no hope of advancement, but she at least felt assured to have her job. Then, suddenly, everything she relied on was taken away when the company downsized and she had to start anew. The loss of her job, she says, caused her to realize she needed to get the one thing no one could take away from her -- an education.
Bishop says Kennett has been her home for the past four years and she began her education with Southeast Missouri State University at the Kennett Area Higher Education Center (KAHEC) in spring 2004. Before moving to the Bootheel, Bishop says she had always wanted to go to college and was interested in psychology. However, her dreams seemed squelched when counselors at another institution told her that her situation, as a single mother, would make it impossible for her to attempt a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work, an internship under a licensed social worker and then take a licensor exam to reach her long-term goal of one-on-one counseling. Yet, upon meeting KAHEC Director Marsha Blanchard and discussing her interests and situation, she was encouraged to go for her goals.
“Marsha’s a great encourager to everyone at KAHEC and Southeast and cares about students,” says Bishop.
“The best thing about Southeast,” Bishop says, “is that it brings programs to the rural areas, giving people like me, who are time- and travel-bound challenged, the opportunity to realize college goals they thought had long passed them by.”
She says her goals include knowing she can provide for her family in the capacity she wants. Bishop says she knows that on the surface, it seems that furthering your education might take away from your children. But she has come to understand that it doesn’t. It actually helps add to their good character.
“I’m convinced that being a committed college student provides a positive example for children. It relays how important an education is and that creating a better character and having higher priorities in life for yourself are admirable,” Bishop says.
Financing for a college education is a concern for many students, but Bishop is in the work-study program at KAHEC working in the administration office. She also has worked as a part-time tutor and been awarded the Simcoke Family Scholarship, Harry Jefferson Bazzell Scholarship and received funding from the career assistance program and state and federal grants.
Assisting with financial aid is one of the first steps the competent staff at KAHEC takes in helping students prepare for their college education, Bishop says.
“It’s hard enough to go back to school and sometimes it feels defeating, and the urge is there to give up and give in before you even begin.
Then the people here at KAHEC encourage and help you realize you can accomplish what you’ve set out to do and this is how the Kennett facility and its staff really make a difference.”
Her advice to other students is to take one semester at a time.
“People’s lives probably take a turn every six months and what you do now may not cut it later on down life’s road. When looking at the big picture, we are sometimes overwhelmed, so just take it a step at a time” she said.
As a sociology major finishing her sophomore year, Bishop says she plans to complete her degree without ever needing to take courses on the main Southeast campus. She attends KAHEC full time, including summers and carries a 3.6 grade point average.