News & Features

Jewel of a student

After hard luck, Jewell Phillips finds OPTIONS at Fontbonne

By: Ollie W. Dowell, for the St. Louis American

January 12, 2006


Life's ups and downs took Jewell Phillips to places most people would not wish on their worst enemy.

"My mother died when I was twelve and my father abandoned us," she said.

"My sisters and I moved with relatives in Kokomo, Indiana. After high school, I married and had two children. Later in life, I suffered an illness that required major surgery. I lost my house, my job was downsized, and my husband left me."

In life, bad things happen. In Jewell's case, life's tragedies turned into compassion for others.

During her illness, Jewell published inspirational poems. She found another job, a new place to live, and healing came quickly. But most importantly, she embraced spirituality.

"I pray all the time. I say to people, my name is Jewell Phillips and God has me here for a purpose."

At age 54, that purpose is clear. Jewell believes her life-drama was by design to help others avoid emotional pitfalls during life's tragedies.

Jewell plans to start a business to counsel children without parents to find their direction in life.

"As a child I was sad. A lot of children lose their parents through death, divorce, and abandonment."

Jewell is an LPN at St. Mary's Health Center. She has worked 26 years in behavioral medicine. Jewell believes she has what it takes to counsel children, but admits she knows nothing about running a business.

Conversations with family members put Jewell on track to get a business degree.

"My daughter said, 'Mom, if anybody can do it, you can. I did it with two small children, a full-time job, and a husband.'"

Jewell's daughter and son-in-law are graduates of Fontbonne University OPTIONS.

But all Jewell had to show she ever attended high school was a faded newspaper article of her graduation.

"The school I attended in Indiana is no longer there and the courthouse burned down," she recalled.

For admission, Jewell was required to write a letter describing why she wanted to attend Fontbonne OPTIONS. She was encouraged to apply to OPTIONS Gateway - a program that prepares students with little to no college credits for a bachelor's degree. Jewell completed Gateway, and is now a second year student in OPTIONS' Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Studies program. That program is designed for adults who plan to work in administrative role.

OPTIONS also offers bachelor degrees in Business Administration, Contemporary Studies, and Sports & Entertainment Management, and master degrees in Business Administration and Management.

OPTIONS is dedicated to adult students like Jewell. Classes are accelerated and form throughout the year. Tuition rates are locked in and do not increase with annual tuition increases. Students register once for their entire program schedule, and pick the weeknight they plan to attend. Students also work in study teams which helps strengthen team-building skills - a skill valued by many employers.

OPTIONS classes are held in several locations around the metro area. Jewell attends classes on the main campus in Clayton.

"Wherever I go I represent Fontbonne OPTIONS. It's another part of the plan to overcome the past and prepare for the future God has for me."

For more information on OPTIONS, visit and click on OPTIONS or call (314) 863-2220.

with permission, copyright (2006) the St. Louis American, Choices/Careers section