Eastern’s nontraditional students share stories, experiences

Trevin Milner, Contributing Writer

According to USA Today, 74 percent of undergraduate students are comprised of students who are above the age of 25 or have children; they are referred to as nontraditional students.

Timothy Hunter, a 45-year-old organizational professional development major, is attending school for the third time.

Hunter first went in 1998 to receive a certificate in industrial maintenance. His second time in 2009, following the closure of the welding shop he was employed at, was to acquire his associate’s degree in applied science.

As he is now in the process of obtaining his bachelor’s degree, he said he notices the differences between now and the other times he was in school.

“It is different going back to school each time because of the age difference, and the way students are being taught is different than when I went to school before,” Hunter said.

Hunter also said even though there is an age gap between him and a lot of students in his classes, he does not find it too difficult to relate to them.

“Some seem to shy away from me because of my age, but I’ve met some great people while going to school,” Hunter said.

Cindi Garrison, a 42-year-old student majoring in health communication, said she has been able to build a relationship with other students in the classroom.

“I have classmates who all jokingly call me ‘mom.’ I find myself rolling my eyes at their antics, but I also remember those days of my own,” Garrison said.

Garrison said that while she is glad to be back at school now that she has the time, it does not come without challenges.

“Juggling school, homework, household chores and taking care of the kids as a single mom is very difficult,” Garrison said.

Many nontraditional students went to school previously and took a break before continuing their educations, such as Jeff Okrasinski, a 48-year-old student majoring in applied engineering and technology.

Okrasinski said he was at a time in his life where after receiving a two-year degree from a vocational school, he needed to provide for his family.

“I had to get a job to provide for my wife and myself, and that got carried over into having kids and just never having time to finish the degree,” Okrasinski said.

Now that his kids are in school, it has made it easier for him to go back and pursue his degree, Okrasinski said.

According to his perspective as a college student, this time around is different compared to what a lot of other traditional students have, he said.

“I know what it takes to get a job and have a job, and while other students and myself are trying to learn and obtain a degree, my point of view is different because I know what is out there and what is expected and what you can do,” Okrasinski said.

Trevin Milner can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].