EDUCATION, EVEN WHEN ‘LIFE HAPPENS’

EDUCATION, EVEN WHEN ‘LIFE HAPPENS’

FIRST-GENERATION, NONTRADITIONAL, VETERAN, SINGLE-PARENT, TRANSFER STUDENT, SOON-TO-BE ENGINEER
by Kate Hawthorne Jeracki

Andy Osborn says when he was growing up in Iowa, his family actively discouraged going to college.

“They told me it was a waste of time and money,” Osborn, 43, recalls. “They weren’t unintelligent, they just thought if you worked hard enough, you could teach yourself anything you needed to know to make something of yourself. I found out employers don’t look at it that way.”

It took Osborn a few years working construction in frigid Midwestern winters, relocating to Colorado, briefly selling cars, spending four years in the Marine Corps, and holding a steady job that paid the bills but had no future to finally decide to further his education.

“I remembered what my parents told me, that college was too expensive, so I joined the military to get the GI Bill to pay for it,” he says.

By the time he returned from his deployment in 2000, as Osborn says, “life happened.” He had a wife and two boys, with another one on the way. So school went on the back burner while he worked for a local dairy.

Then life happened again, and he found himself the sole support of three preschoolers. Osborn decided school could wait, again. When the oldest was 12, they discussed it as a family and decided it was time for Dad to go for it. He enrolled in Front Range Community College, intending to transfer to Colorado State after taking all the science courses he could fit into his schedule.

By then, his veteranseducation benefits had expired, and Osborn was confronted with the unexpected prospect of taking on student debt. He assembled as many scholarships and grants as he could, but that still left everyday living expenses to be covered.

As a single parent, Osborn found he was eligible for services at Project Self-Sufficiency, a local nonprofit dedicated to making life manageable for families working toward a better future.

“I almost reconsidered going to school, but I found Project Self- Sufficiency; I’m glad I didn’t quit,” he says now that he’s just two years away from earning his bachelor’s in electrical engineering from CSU. “But it was daunting.”

KNOWING WHERE

TO LOOK FOR HELP

As a first-generation, nontraditional, veteran, single-parent, transfer student, Osborn faced a combination of challenges that could have become major roadblocks to completing his education. One of his biggest frustrations was not knowing where to look for financial aid that he was eligible for – and then applying by the different deadlines for the ones he found.

Osborn is now working with the Office of Financial Aid at CSU to “figure out a way to make my goals affordable and attainable. They said, ‘We will do what we can to help,’ and I really feel that people are out there pulling for me.”

There is also a wide range of services on campus to assist students like Osborn, who says he would like to have known more about where to find them when he started.

“It really helps to have someone who has traveled the tough road ahead of you,” Osborn says. “I hope me telling my story can help smooth the road for others. You should always work toward your goals and not drop out.”

Osborn says he’s super excited about being an engineer, not just for the financial returns but because it’s rewarding to know that “at the end of the day, I made something, I’ve accomplished something. And I can provide a better future for my family.”

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