Growing up, Avonlea Schemmer always loved learning and going to school. However, she found herself struggling with her studies more than any of her five siblings. She had been diagnosed with dyslexia in kindergarten, so learning to read didn’t come easily for her. Dyslexia is a chronic learning disability that makes it difficult to read, despite having average or above average intelligence.
Avonlea’s parents diligently worked with her when she was young, and would have her sound out everything from words on road signs to restaurant menus as part of an ongoing effort to help her overcome her difficulties. Their hard work helped, but it wasn’t until Avonlea was held back in third grade that she began to get full access to the wide variety of the resources she needed to help manage her dyslexia.
It was through this experience that Avonlea realized just how vital early childhood education could be for a young person’s overall well-being. It also eventually led her to decide to go to grad school to earn her Master of Arts in Education.
Today, the little girl who was held back in third grade is now all grown up and working on her doctorate. Her goal is to attain her PhD before her 32nd birthday.
“Many people tell me that I will not be able to accomplish my dreams, but I have already proven them wrong by having attained my master’s degree,” says Avonlea, referring to the degree she received at graduation from AU in July, 2018.
Her dyslexia continues to make reading a challenge, which means her educational journey hasn’t been an easy one. But it’s one she’s been inspired to complete and is tackling with relish and her trademark tenacity.
“I saw that early intervention really helps students thrive,” she says, revealing that in addition to one day opening her own early childhood education center, she would love to become a professor. Her goal is to demonstrate to others what a big impact they can make in their own young students’ lives.
It is with this spirit in mind that Avonlea has found her niche at Ashford University* through her work with the CHAMPS peer mentoring program. She recently finished her seventh mentorship and still keeps in contact with many of the students she assisted in the past.
“CHAMPS has been my main source of joy at Ashford,” she says. “I get the honor of helping and offering my mentees skills so that they can live their dreams.”
Although it is a virtual group, Avonlea is amazed at how close she feels with the people she works with through the program and loves sharing her story as inspiration for others who may find themselves struggling.
For students looking for advice with their online education, Avonlea encourages them to utilize as many of the resources available to them as they can.
“Reach out for help. Watch videos from the portal, connect with classmates, join clubs,” she says.
“They’re packed with resources that have helped me write and push myself to be a better writer,” she explains.
Having previously graduated with her BA from California Baptist University, an online university like Ashford, Avonlea was initially inspired to go back to grad school by her fiancé, Matthew. He was pursuing his MBA at Ashford and she respected the hard work he was putting in to reach his goals. She knew that if she ever wanted to achieve her dream of opening her own early childhood education center, she too would need her master’s degree.
In October, 2018 Avonlea and Matthew walked together at Ashford University’s fall graduation ceremony in San Diego, which was only an hour and a half drive from their hometown of Corona, California. Now, as she pursues her doctorate, Avonlea has the highest education amongst her siblings. She’s even hoping to inspire her parents to go back to school to complete their degrees.
Although Avonlea will be the first to admit going to grad school takes a lot of hard work and dedication, she also understands the importance of having a life outside of her studies. In addition to spending plenty of quality time with her family, Avonlea has one very southern Californian way to unwind: when this studious Ph.D. student needs a real mental break, she heads straight to her sister’s place of employment — Disneyland!
Think you might be interested in a Master’s or Doctoral degree? Learn more about which one is right for you.
* Ashford University is now the University of Arizona Global Campus