I think sometimes in our lives we are given a second chance to achieve those goals that we never thought possible.
After Sheila Woodard graduated from high school over 30 years ago, she immediately enrolled in college. But after a year of coursework, she began working, dropped to part-time status, and met her husband. Two years after they met, she and her husband were living in the Caribbean, where they stayed for the next seven years. It was there, in St. Thomas, that Sheila entered the hospitality industry. Though she loved her line of work, she regretted never finishing college and earning her degree.
Sheila lives in El Paso, TX with her husband and is a graduate of Ashford University’s Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration online degree program. When we spoke to her in 2010, she shared the career goal she hoped her degree would qualify her to reach. “I have been in the hospitality industry for 20 years and have wanted to move on to a general manager position, but have not been given the opportunity. With my vast experience and a degree now in hand, that opportunity can finally become available.”
When asked what prompted her to finish her degree, Sheila explained, “I think sometimes in our lives we are given a second chance to achieve those goals that we never thought possible.” For Sheila, the goal of finishing her college education was one she put on the back burner for decades, and it was the death of her mother that brought the dream to the top of her priority list. “In the six weeks the laborious task of settling my mother’s estate took, my life changed. Returning to the job market part-time, I found myself with time, resources, and a desire to achieve those things that were important to me, including finishing my degree.”
Part of what made finishing her degree such a priority was Sheila’s desire to set a good example for her two children. “I want them to go to college, but I really want them to realize that higher education is so important that thousands of adults, regardless of their age, are making sacrifices to finish their degrees, if not for that ‘perfect’ job they always wanted, then to be satisfied that they have achieved some of their lives’ goals.”
Once enrolled, Sheila was surprised to discover how much her courses impacted her personal life. Her first course focused in part on goal setting and strategies to achieve those goals. “The journey of that first course helped me let go of the past and create my own journey for the rest of my life. After that course, I was determined to continue until I had my degree.”
In May 2010 Sheila achieved her dream, and graduated with honors at age 48. “The support of God and of my husband made it all possible. It was a fantastic experience to walk across that stage with my fellow graduates, many of whom, like me, had never been on the campus before, but felt a connection to it anyway.”
But graduating wasn't the only dream that Sheila achieved. As she updated us in 2011, "I have changed jobs and expanded my work roles. I'm now a Regional Director of Sales and Co-Manager of a hotel." This position, which includes being responsible for five hotels, is a stepping-stone to her dream job. "I am currently being trained for the role of General Manager. I hope to achieve the position by the end of the year." In early 2012, Sheila let us know she'd done just that. "I am now a General Manager of an all-suite property and loving it! I will be studying this year to obtain my professional certification (CHA)."