The day I walked at my commencement, I felt happy, relieved, proud, and most of all, driven. I have never been so driven then as I am today.
There were many evenings when Byrnadette Flores sat down to do her undergrad school projects with her favorite study buddy right by her side: her 8-year-old daughter, Mia. Mia would settle in to do her homework as well, telling her, “Mommy, I am going to try hard like you in school.”
To Byrnadette, having her daughter watch her as she reached for her goals gave an element of meaning to earning her degree that went far beyond simply bettering herself professionally.
Born and raised in Phoenix, Byrnadette attended community college after high school and earned her associate degree. However, once she transferred to Arizona State University, she began to lose motivation. Instead, she found herself working full time, first to support herself and eventually her daughter.
“Becoming a mother was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” she says. “However, with this milestone in place, I pushed my education further away.”
Although Byrnadette never regretted putting off school to have more time with her daughter, in the back of her mind she knew she wanted to complete her education. As Mia got older, Byrnadette realized going back to school was the essential next step in building a better life for both her and her daughter — financially and mentally.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. After nearly 10 years out of school, Byrnadette found out via a co-worker that the company they worked for offered a grant program for continuing education. That’s when she learned about Ashford University* and decided to take the plunge and earn her Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration.
“Surprisingly, school ran smooth, and I adjusted faster than I anticipated,” she recalls.
The two years she attended Ashford flew by and in June 2019, the proud member of the Golden Key International Honour Society, Sigma Beta Delta Honor Society, and Alpha Sigma Lambda chapter graduated with a 4.0 GPA.
Coincidentally, Byrnadette says that the secret to realizing her goals was the same thing that initially forced her to put her college education on hold.
“As a mother, naturally I think we become more organized, dedicated, and goal-oriented for our kids,” she explains. “I carried these traits over to my education and do feel this has had a superior effect on my success.”
Byrnadette also credits resources such as the Writing Center and Library — as well as the support of her instructors — as being instrumental in helping her stay focused and push herself further. She even found the time to pay it forward and volunteered for the CHAMPS peer mentoring program for online students.
Was it hard going to school and being a single mom? Indeed it was, says Byrnadette, laughing that it’s “not always rainbows and sunshine.”
Perhaps the most difficult part was making time to complete her assignments knowing she may need to make sacrifices, like attending every recital and practice of her daughter’s that she could, but with deadlines looming she had to prioritize and find balance.
“It was hard missing family parties or a trip because I had a paper due, but I made it work the best I could and surprised myself with how much I was able to do in school and still have a life outside of school,” she explains.
However, if you ask 8-year old Mia what the best part of her mother’s educational journey was, she would likely say it was the days that mom didn’t have schoolwork.
When the studious duo needed to de-stress, Byrnadette worked hard to ensure downtime fit into the schedule. Putting her time management skills to work, she carefully broke her weekly schedule down so she knew exactly what days she didn’t have homework.
“My daughter and I would stay home and watch Netflix or make that day a fun day, however we thought best, whether it was going out to eat, shopping, or catching a movie. Byrnadette says her daughter called those days “Mommy’s No-Homework Days,” and they both looked forward to them as a chance to spend valuable time together catching up and unwinding.
Now that Byrnadette has completed her bachelor’s degree, she has her eyes focused on her future and plans to start her Master of Arts in Health Care Administration in the fall.
The degree is certainly rewarding, but there are a number of other benefits to making such sacrifices, Byrnadette says. At just age 8, Mia is already talking about plans for college after seeing the way her mother’s hard work and dedication paid off. And, Byrnadette has inspired other family members to go back to school and keep their eyes on the prize.
“The day I walked at my commencement, I felt happy, relieved, proud, and most of all, driven,” she says. “I have never been so driven as I am today.”
* Ashford University is now the University of Arizona Global Campus