"A lot of my lunch breaks are spent reading," says Fontbonne University OPTIONS student Sheldon Jackson, who also puts in study time on Sunday afternoons and early on Saturday mornings before the three youngest of his five children are awake.
The 36-year-old Florissant resident is a manager for St. Louis-based Talx Corporation. He's been with the company for 16 years and worked his way up from the mailroom to his present position. During the last several years, his company has been acquired twice, prompting Jackson to reconsider his education.
"I wanted to make myself more competitive, more attractive on paper," says Jackson. "If there are big changes in the company, I at least want to be considered for those upper level jobs."
Jackson's mentor at Talx, a man named Ed Chaffin, also an OPTIONS student, encouraged him to get his bachelor's degree, so his credentials would match his experience and talent.
The Fontbonne OPTIONS Gateway program was perfect for Jackson, who had just a few credit hours from a community college. Gateway is designed to provide working adults a jumpstart toward a bachelor's degree. Taking two courses at a time allows adults to earn 48 credits in a short 19 months.
Jackson started Gateway in March 2007. He plans to complete his BBA and then get started on the OPTIONS MBA. Jackson lives less than a mile from the OPTIONS site in North County, at Paddock Hills Plaza, where he spends Monday and Wednesday evenings.
He admits that being an adult student isn't without challenges. Combining work, family and school takes a lot of scheduling and support, but he's glad to be on his way.
"I think my ten-year-old is picking up some good study habits by watching me," says Jackson, who also shares his experiences with his older daughters, age 17 and 18.
"I tell them both to go ahead and get their educations now because it could impact the opportunities they have," he says. "I was blessed to have someone take notice of me and my abilities early on, but that doesn't always happen. Having a degree will open doors for them."
Jackson believes being an adult student does have advantages.
"I think I'm more insightful now," he says, offering this advice to other adults considering heading back to the classroom: "Just get over the fear and get started."
Fontbonne University has been a provider of high-quality educational programs for more than 80 years. OPTIONS is designed specifically to accommodate the needs of busy, working adults with convenient and accelerated undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
For more information, call 314-863-2220 or visit www.fontbonne.edu/options.
- By Anne Shaw Heinrich for The Independent News, with permission, copyright (2008), The Independent News