» By BRIAN BIGELOW – bbigelow@my.apsu.edu

Nontraditional students face unique challenges in their pursuit of higher education, often balancing work and family with homework and classes.

There are many reasons why people don’t immediately attend college after graduating from high school — marriage, kids, money, the military and the list goes on. Some never graduated from high school in the first place, but decide to get their GED and return to school to reach their potential, better their lives and expand their opportunities.

“I always knew I was smart and I could do better than driving a school bus,” said June Knight, graduate student in the Corporate Communications program. “Then, when my last child became a senior, I said, ‘I’m going back to school. This is my time.’”

After getting married at 16 and dropping out of high school, Knight got her GED and after raising three children, decided to go back to school after almost 20 years.

She became the first person in her family to graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree.

“My family is uneducated, so I didn’t have support. I had to fight for it on my own,” Knight said.

Knight is also the president and founder of the Non-Traditional Student Society at APSU and had a hand in introducing the nontraditional student honors society, Alpha Sigma Lambda, to the campus.

Another nontraditional student is Alissa Peek, 41. A junior Public Relations major, Peek returned to school nearly 20 years after graduating from high school, getting married and having two children.

“I didn’t want to waste my parents’ money. I wasn’t good at high school. I didn’t think I would be good at college. I didn’t give myself a chance,” Peek said.

She left her job as a master barber and first got an associate’s degree at Nashville State Community College, then went on to pursue her bachelor’s at APSU.

“I’m the only one of my siblings that has gone to college,” Peek said. “The thing that’s hard is balancing. Trying to get this college degree and keeping my family in check and making sure they’re taken care of, it’s really hard.”

Knight and Peek both sought assistance when they returned to school. Peek sought remedial mathematics instruction through an adult learning center.

Roy Lane, 40, a junior Biology major, enlisted in the Air Force and served for four years after high school, then got married and raised a family. When his employer of 16 years began downsizing a few years ago, Lane was offered a buy-out program that would help pay for him to return to school.

He took the opportunity to enroll in college to pursue his interest in the sciences, with the goal to someday become a teacher.

Lane encourages older adults to go back to school and earn a degree.

“I would just tell them to not be afraid,” Lane said. “The opportunities are there for them as long as they take advantage of it. The biggest thing with older students is a fear of going back to school, but there are plenty of resources on campus for all students.” TAS