“You’re not college material.” For years, this was the phrase that kept Ashford* Alum Christina Bowie from pursuing her educational dreams.
“When I was younger, I bounced from foster home to foster home in Philadelphia,” she recalls. “I couldn’t read. I could barely write. I couldn’t do any mathematics. I hated that feeling of always getting made fun of,” she explains.
It wasn’t until Christina was 11 years old that she was adopted and welcomed into her forever home in York, Pennsylvania.
“When I moved here and finally had parents who actually cared, they put a lot of work into me and my education,” she says. “They cared so much. They made me do the work, even though I always tried to escape it because I didn’t know how to do it.”
However, her turbulent past didn’t make things easy in her teen years. “There were times when I tried to get myself together, but I was still a bit lost at that point in my life.” Christina says she got into some trouble at 16 and by 18, she was pregnant with her first son.
“When I finally wanted to go to college and tried to seek help in doing that, I was told I wasn’t college material at all. So, I gave up,” she explains. “I held that in my head for so long. I thought, ‘they’re right. I’m not college material. I’ve struggled all my life in academics; I can’t do this.’”
That’s how she ended up working in a warehouse that made truck parts for 14 years.
“There are a lot of warehouses in my area, and a lot of people work at them because the pay is good, and plenty of jobs are available,” she says. “Yes, the benefits are good, but I wanted to make a difference for my kids and set an example for them.”
In November 2012, married with four children, she decided to enroll at Ashford to get her Bachelor of Arts in Applied Behavioral Science.
She says she got through the next four years by simply buckling down and plowing through classes. “Honestly, I didn’t think about it. I just enrolled and did it. And I didn’t look at the timeframe, because if I would’ve, I would’ve been overwhelmed.”
With the support of her husband and her parents who live two blocks away, she managed to graduate with honors in four years, all while working second shift at the warehouse and raising her family.
Christina completed her bachelor’s degree in 2016. As a former high school dropout who had gotten her GED, her whole family (parents included) flew from Pennsylvania to San Diego to proudly watch Christina walk across the commencement stage for the very first time.
Christina knew her bachelor’s degree was the first step to working in the field she desired. However, she also realized going to grad school might be an even better way to achieve her career goals.
That’s why — when her student advisor suggested she knock out some master-level courses by taking advantage of Ashford’s SMART Track program — Christina jumped at the chance.
“Financially, it made sense, and time-wise it made sense,” she explains. “Because you’re already in the academic mindset, it was so easy. You think it might be harder because you’re taking grad school courses while still an undergrad, but it wasn’t like that at all. All I thought was, “OK, I’m going to get this done, and I’m going to save time while doing it.”
With Ashford University’s SMART Track program, eligible undergrad students can enroll in up to nine credits toward their master’s degree. By doing so, Christina estimates she managed to graduate in about 18 months, as opposed to the two years she anticipated it to take.
“To be honest, I barely remember going to grad school; it went by so quickly,” she laughs. “The program for my master’s flew by. Because I already had those credits, it went super-fast. I loved the SMART Track and would recommend it to anyone.”
While still in grad school, she took the plunge and transitioned to a job in the mental health field, working as therapeutic staff support for kids with disabilities and behavioral issues.
Once she graduated with her Master of Arts in Psychology, she moved up to the role of a behavioral specialist and, through her job, is now currently working on getting her LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor)** in the state of Pennsylvania. It’ll take 3,000 supervised hours to achieve that, but Christina knows that much like school, she’ll get there sooner rather than later.
Now that she’s out of school, she says she’s grateful Ashford provided a way for her to get into a field working with the kids that she loves.
“Ashford seriously showed me that I am college material,” she says. “I’m very thankful that Ashford was there. It was convenient. I feel like if I could do it with four kids, being married, and working full-time, then anybody could do it.”
* Ashford University is now the University of Arizona Global Campus
** An online degree from the University of Arizona Global Campus does not lead to immediate teacher licensure in any state.