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When Life Got in Her Way, Student/Mom Found a Way to Own Her Future

“I always felt like a failure. I’ve now learned that you have to own your life and grow from your mistakes or else it’s all pointless. I took a long path to get here, but I am so proud of who I am these days.”     

Like so many adult students, life got in the way for Bri.  “A lot of doors kept closing in my face. I wasn’t living a life that was going anywhere,” she remembers.   

When Bri was 16, she lost her dad unexpectedly to a massive stroke. “I was so sad. My dream of going away for school went away. In hindsight, I should have tried but I was too scared. My world crumbled as I started working to help my mom pay the mortgage.”  

But her life was about to change.  She went to Otterbein’s Adult and Transfer Admission staff and found an answer. “Mary Mosca was a life-saving and beautiful person.  She encouraged me to take off my narrow vision glasses and see what else was out there for me. ...“I was a 25-year-old sophomore and finally got a view of my life.”

“I remember walking into the registrar’s office to drop something off before commencement. One of the greatest moments of my life was looking at that card and seeing ‘magna cum laude’ under my name.”  That moment is important because Bri was 27. Her path to earning her degree was longer than most and riddled with obstacles, but she never gave up.

She started nursing school after high school, but was later asked to leave the program after she fell behind academically. Bri said she felt completely demoralized.  She tried following her sister and nephew to California but that didn’t pan out. She came back to Ohio determined to see if a door in nursing might still be open. She put together a great portfolio in hopes of earning a place in Otterbein’s nursing program. She was rejected. But again, she decided not to give up.

Bri took advantage of her science background and jumped into health communication. “I felt lost but Professor Kerry Strayer was the first person I met and she immediately took me under her wing and became my mentor.”

And then Bri found out she was pregnant. It wasn’t part of the plan. “I went from being an adult, commuter student with a full-time course load, working two part-time jobs, to being an adult, pregnant commuter student with a full-time course load, working two part-time jobs.”

Bri took 20 credit hours that summer and earned a 4.0 GPA. She still doesn’t know how she did it but says that everyone, including department heads and faculty, were incredibly supportive. “I never felt judged. Professors Strayer, Susan Millsap and Chris Reynolds were my rocks.”

Bri took a quarter off and Oct. 3, the day her healthy baby boy was born, was the “greatest moment” of her life. Life evolved again. Now a “mom” commuter student, she often sobbed about leaving her baby while walking to class and feeling the weight of new responsibilities.

Commencement day was huge for Bri. “There are many great moments, but this one was just for me — that walk across the stage and through the tunnel of faculty. I earned that moment. And when my fiancé handed me our son as I finished my walk out, I was just so proud.”

“I’ve had a tough road to get here. There were times I didn’t have books for my courses because I couldn’t afford them. I could never afford to live in the dorms and there were plenty of times I didn’t have enough money to buy campus food to eat. It’s not easy to study when you’re hungry. Later on, trying to manage being a student and a mom was so hard. I had to dig deep.”

Bri hopes to be like one of the Otterbein women who guided and supported her during her struggles. “If I could be that person for one student during my life it would mean the world to me.”