Ashford believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.
Michelle Kramer’s introduction to Ashford University was fairly traditional. “Like any average college student, I wanted to pursue my degree so I could find a good job and make lots of money.” She chose Ashford because she was offered a volleyball scholarship and the Clinton campus was only one bridge and ten minutes away from her home in Fulton, Illinois.
Michelle’s traditional experience ended when she became pregnant just before her junior year. “I pushed myself to complete that fall semester on campus, but as my belly became bigger, the fifth floor became more like a marathon than five flights of stairs. Winter was also approaching and the fear of falling on ice became more plausible.”
Unwilling to simply drop out of school, Michelle went to see Larry Libberton, Ashford’s Director of Communications. “I didn’t know what to do. I came to Larry and I said I want to stay in school, but I don’t know how. He helped me so much - he was always there for me.” With the guidance and encouragement from Larry and from Wuanita Sullivan (Campus Associate Director of Student Affairs), Michelle made the decision to switch to Ashford’s online environment. “I loved being able to take classes in the comfort of my home. I was even working on homework while I was in labor!”
After giving birth to her son, Reece, Michelle took a five-week hiatus from class. “After my break, I was rejuvenated and ready to finish my education. I pushed forward, and after a year of online coursework I felt comfortable returning to campus.” Michelle finished her senior year on the Clinton campus, and graduated cum laude with her Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration in December 2010. “The feeling I had when I saw my family’s smiling faces was indescribable. We all worked so hard, and gave up so much, so that I could walk on that stage and receive my diploma.”
Michelle says her decision to finish college was “the hardest and wisest decision I have ever made. I am not going to lie - I cried some nights when I had to choose homework over spending time with Reece. But those nights paid off. When I started college, I was an 18-year-old adolescent with no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I just wanted to play volleyball. Of course I still want to find a good job and make lots of money - who wouldn’t? But now I am more concerned with showing my son that it is possible to complete an education regardless of barriers that others say are impossible to overcome. Right now, I just want to find a good job that allows me to be a mother and a provider.”
In March 2011, Michelle found that job with her alma mater in the admissions department.
To anyone considering Ashford, Michelle says, “Make sure you are ready for challenges. Whether it’s a break-up, a ten-page paper, or a pregnancy, you can always push through it. Ashford makes it possible for you to earn your degree even if it feels out of reach. Ashford believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, and for that I am incredibly thankful.”