"I finally thought, 'YES, I am going to make it!' What a feeling. No one can take that away from you."
“In 1980, I thought I was making big bucks – $5.83 per hour – so I quit college.” In 1982, twenty-two-year-old Belinda Argobast was laid off from her job and would not find work for another two years. When she did find work, it was in the Department of Human Services for the State of Michigan. Twelve years later, in 1996, she was promoted to manager. In 2009, when we first spoke with her, Belinda had become the Program Manager – second-in-command. “I have about 100 employees and ten managers that I supervise. I received my promotion a few months before I completed my Bachelor’s degree. I am positive that the fact that I was so close to finishing school was the reason I got the job.”
Belinda’s reason for returning to college after nearly 30 years is not uncommon among adult learners: her children. “A few times in my life I wanted to go back to school, but I didn’t because of the time it would take away from my family. Then, about four years ago, my oldest was a senior in high school, and I thought, ‘How can I tell her she has to go to college if I didn’t go?’ I went back to school so I would be a good role model for my three children.”
In November 2009, Belinda completed Ashford University’s Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Management online degree program. Her children watched as she walked across the stage in Clinton, Iowa and received her diploma. She then enrolled in the Master of Arts in Organizational Management online degree program at Ashford. At the time, her oldest daughter was 21 years old and attending Wayne State University. “She has told me many times that I have been her inspiration and that if her mom could work 50-55 hours a week, take care of three children, and go to school, then surely she could work part-time and go to school.”
In addition to inspiring her children, Belinda encouraged her sister to earn her degree and she has continually impressed her staff. “They would often say they didn’t know how I did it all. I would tell them I just take one task at a time so I don’t get too overwhelmed.”
Of course, not getting overwhelmed is much easier said than done, and Belinda admits that her confidence was not always so strong. “I remember back to the first few classes – I thought I would never complete school. There were times I would be almost in tears in front of the computer trying to write a paper. But I stuck to it. As I got closer to finishing my Bachelor’s degree I gained confidence. I finally thought, ‘YES, I am going to make it!’ What a feeling. No one can take that from you. There aren’t even words that can describe how I felt when I knew I had done it.”
Belinda graduated with her Master's degree in March 2012 at age 51. Shortly after, Belinda received yet another promotion to District Manager for the Department of Human Services, which came with a nice raise. Belinda explains that this job was actually the reason she went back to school in the first place. "In 2005, my manager told me that I would make a great District Manager one day and that he was looking to retire. When I told him I had no degree, he said, 'What are you waiting for? Now is the time.' I have that job at the office I wanted – just three miles from my home."