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Regina sitting outside of Doane College.Last week, we wrote about taking time off between high school and college. In this article we share about Regina who attended college 20 years after high school.

Regina Sullivan has been working as an Administrative Assistant in our Lincoln College Planning Office since February 2020. She also did her college work study program with the same office in 2008-2010. This is her story of going to college – many years after high school.

College Didn’t Seem Possible

It was 1987. Regina Sullivan was a senior at Lincoln High and about to graduate. She didn’t think college was an option – she heard it was expensive and she assumed her working-class family wouldn’t be able to afford it. She assumed the door was shut as far as college was concerned.

She says, “College seemed impossible for me and my family due to the cost, and I was uninformed of how financial aid/scholarships worked. So, I chose a career in the big city to build my skill set, get on-the-job experience, and make money.”

Found a Pretty Good Job

She ended up moving to Cincinnati to be with family and started working an entry-level position as a file clerk for a law firm. Eventually, she worked her way up to bigger responsibilities and making pretty good money, but she found herself homesick for Nebraska.

Eventually she moved back to Nebraska and worked a lot of temporary office jobs. She felt a little behind her peers since she didn’t have a degree – and didn’t have the ability to advance much in her career without one.

Once she was older, and had two kids, she realized she needed an education in order to make better income, and to show her kids that working hard to earn a degree is necessary to achieve great things.

College Is Possible

Regina talked to Tammy Preston (our former Director of Outreach who passed away in 2011,) at EducationQuest to find out what her college options were. Tammy said, “You can do this,” and said that there was nothing that could stop Regina as long as she didn’t let it. Tammy taught Regina about the FAFSA to get financial aid and what to expect when attending college.

Regina doesn’t want to discount the on-the-job training that she got prior to college. “That’s really important, too, and it DID help me get to where I am. I learned a lot of valuable skills there that still help me in my current job.”

In 2007, 20 years after graduating high school, she started college at Southeast Community College. She was 38 years old, and completely determined. She didn’t have a car, so she took the bus. She studied full-time and graduated in 2010 with an Associate’s degree in Entrepreneurship.

Her Associate’s degree has helped her to get better jobs than she could without it. After graduating, she worked as a Community Health Worker helping low income, minorities, and refugees with health disparities such as diabetes and heart disease.

Advice for Her Younger Self

If Regina could talk to her younger self she’d say: “You can go to school! There are grants, scholarships, loans, and other ways to get there. Stay determined! Fill out the FAFSA! Go! Go! Go!” She feels if she had gone earlier, she could have found a career that she loved versus wasting time in jobs that lead nowhere.

Regina is currently working on her bachelor’s degree in business at Doane University. She plans to graduate in Summer 2022.