News & Features

Fontbonne Options program opens door to higher learning

posted Jan. 18, 2008

Climbing Science Center ranks created Siinya Riley's thirst for knowledge

By Anne Shaw Heinrick for the St. Louis American

January 10, 2008

A lot of people don't realize that there is science everywhere," says Fontbonne University OPTIONS student Siinya Riley.

The truth is, Riley didn't realize it either, until she started working at the St. Louis Science Center in 1991. She started working in reservations and over the next five years had worked her way up to management in two other departments: the box office and information.

"I fell in love with what the Science Center represents," says Riley, who discovered that even more exciting career challenges awaited her. The Center had developed a community science division, and with it, a program called Youth Exploring Science (YES).

The project focuses on providing science programming to underserved youth.

"I started seeing African-American youth in the building," Riley said. "I went right up to some of the kids and asked them what they were doing. I knew right then that I really wanted to work with kids, those kids. I just had to be a part of it."

Riley got her wish. She came into the program as a science coordinator and found that she loved the work. The YES program gives underserved high school students a four-year opportunity to be employed by the Science Center while learning about science, technology, engineering and math. The program also helps them with preparation for college and professional development.

"I could see myself in these kids," Riley said.

Her work encouraging youth to pursue higher education prompted Riley to take a closer look at her own life and goals. Working at the Science Center heightened her awareness of the power of education. She wanted more education for herself so she could reach kids even more effectively.

Riley already had some college credits, so she started with the Fontbonne University OPTIONS Gateway program in May in 2007. 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.

After she completes her core Gateway courses, Riley plans to move straight ahead with the OPTIONS BBA and she's seriously considered getting an MBA after that. Riley is very satisfied with her work coordinating with community organizations and managing events targeting underserved youth, but believes having the degree will provide even more opportunity for growth, both professionally and on a personal level.

"There is just an emptiness that can only be filled by getting my degree," she says. "I need this piece in order to keep growing. I really look forward to going to school now and learning with other adults. OPTIONS is very convenient."

With its main campus located in Clayton, the university has also established OPTIONS classroom sites in North County, South County, Chesterfield and downtown St. Louis.

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.

with permission, copyright (2008) St. Louis American / Choices & Careers