If life were predictable, it wouldn’t be very interesting. But too often, evolving circumstances force people to put certain priorities on hold.
That’s what happened to Shameka Burkes. Originally from a small town in central Florida, Shameka was a military spouse and mother of two teenagers trying to balance family with work. Moving around and trying to keep a job left her little time to pursue a degree, even though she knew it would elevate her above her management position in retail.
Fortunately, she saw a window of opportunity when her husband was assigned to duty in Maryland.
“I decided to concentrate on completing my degree for our first two years [here],” she said. “Without working the typical 9 to 5, I made my studies and volunteering my priorities.”
Shameka reached out to a friend and a co-worker for college recommendations. Both told her they’d attended Ashford University and urged her to pursue her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration online.
Distance learning was a new experience, but Shameka said she got the hang of it with the help of instructors and classmates. However, her dream was unexpectedly placed on hold again when her husband was relocated to Hawaii and her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Shameka returned to Florida to care for her mother, spending months away from her family. She said she put everything in “God’s hands” and remained hopeful that she could return to her studies once her mother was healthy again.
After a year off from school, Shameka resumed her studies at Ashford. She found that despite all of her personal struggles, she was as focused as ever and determined to succeed.
“Each course, each quiz, and each written assignment reminded me of a personal reward and accomplishment,” she said.
Finally, after so many years of chasing her dream, Shameka earned her degree and joined her fellow graduates at Ashford’s 2015 commencement ceremony.
After overcoming so much adversity, Shameka dedicated her degree to her mother (now cancer-free) and grandmothers, saying they set an example that “hard work and dedication comes with a great reward.”
“I will continue to strive to set an example to my family and friends and let them know that no matter how late in life you accomplish a long-term goal, the reward is truly a great feeling that no one can take from you,” she said.
Shameka now holds the key to her future, but she’s not ready to slow down. Her journey, she said, has increased her “drive and desire to accomplish more in life,” and she plans to return to Ashford to pursue her MBA.
“I am more outspoken, confident, and eager to embark on my future accomplishments,” she said. “I often tell my friends and family that my journey this far has been with a purpose, as I have been blessed to be a great wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend with an endless support system that has continuously encouraged me to reach for the stars.”