Jeremy Morales was once a self-described quitter, dropping out of high school as a teen and trying several different jobs before ultimately giving them all up.
“Back in the day, I quit a lot,” he confesses. Now, having completed more than half of his bachelor’s degree at the University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC), he says he has no plans to stop, and is letting his desire to better himself and the community around him be his guide.
Growing Up Fast
The path to becoming a successful college student was a bumpy one for Jeremy. Growing up in the Hartford, Connecticut area, he says his childhood lacked the stability and support he craved. Jeremy says he bounced around from place to place while his mom was in the Army and away for part of his childhood.
“My grandmother raised me,” he says. “We had an apartment here, an apartment there.” When his grandmother passed away, he lived with his mother until he was a teenager, and he says his family experienced a separation of sorts. People didn’t help and support each other the way he believes families should.
By his 17th birthday, Jeremy was married, expecting his first child, and had dropped out of high school to work and care for his new family.
“I still was a young adolescent myself,” he describes. “I had to learn the hard way. I didn’t know what it was to be a father. I wanted to be a good father, but I hadn’t developed any maturity yet.” Jeremy struggled between thoughts of his own desires and goals and doing what he needed to do to provide for his family. He would have two more children by the time he was 22 years old.
“My thing was just trying to find a job and trying to pay the rent,” he states. Fortunately, Jeremy says he had help from his wife’s family, and they provided a good example of what he believes a supportive family should look like.
All three of Jeremy’s children have graduated high school, and he is proud of the lives they are living. “One of them is in the Air Force, the other is working to hopefully own a business,” he explains. “The other is doing carpentry work.”
He says he hopes they were impacted by one major event in Jeremy’s life. “I feel like I was an example at one point when I obtained my GED, and they saw me walk the stage,” he says. Though he may not have known it at the time, earning his GED wouldn’t be the end of his educational pursuits.
Making the Change
In 2019, Jeremy was in a relationship that suddenly ended, and he found himself living out of his car for a few cold, northeastern months. “I was going to the gym and showering there,” he describes. “I would work, and I would go to church because they were open seven days a week, and then I would do it all again until I finally got an apartment.”
After that experience, Jeremy was determined to make changes in his life. He enrolled at a Spanish-speaking university and completed a few general education courses. “I did not have any formal Spanish education experience, but I was dedicated to challenging myself,” he says. “People laughed at me, but I did very well.”
Having gained confidence seeking education in his second language, he decided to start searching for opportunities to pursue a degree in his primary language. Jeremy knew what he wanted to study, and he found what he was looking for in the Bachelor of Arts in Political Science & Government* program at Ashford University, now UAGC.
“I always wanted to study political science,” he confirms. “I even started to dig into some books.” Though he was still fearful at times, he began to envision himself succeeding. “I was always afraid I would not do well,” he admits. “I think that’s something everyone struggles with.”
Like many students, Jeremy still encountered stressful and challenging times as he began working toward his degree. He found the listening ear of his advisor was just what he needed when life felt like it was just too much.
“I remember that while I was moving to another state, getting married, and changing jobs all at the same time, I wanted to quit,” he describes. “The greatest thing that happened was their ability to listen, and that made me keep going. While I was talking about my problems, my mind clicked, and I no longer felt sorry for myself. I felt inspired to push harder and to do my best.”
He says memories of times he has quit in his life have invaded his mind many times, but he tells himself, “You’re going to do it this time!”
Jeremy’s tenacity has certainly proved to be crucial.
“My mom recently had heart surgery, and my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer,” he explains. “My dad will soon have surgery.” To help his parents, Jeremy moved to be closer to them, and he has taken over his father’s truck-driving business in order to provide for them. Thanks to the flexibility of the program at UAGC, he is able to work long hours and still complete his coursework, even on his longest days.
“Sometimes I would be up until 12 to 2 o’clock in the morning to do schoolwork,” he says. “Then I would go to work and come back and try to sleep maybe four or five hours.”
Jeremy even found time to be involved in the UAGC LatinX Club. “I was working with Holly as a student administrator,” he says. “I started organizing a coffee time in Spanish.” During the meetings, participants would share their art, poems, and sometimes music.
When thinking about his political future and the state of government, Jeremy says he does not like the back-and-forth bickering that seems to encompass today’s politics and takes over what we see on TV and social media.
“No one gets to concrete issues or resolving things,” he observes. “It’s gridlock. They stay stuck.” For Jeremy, fostering understanding of how change gets made and helping people who find themselves in challenging circumstances is at the center of his mission as he thinks about his future.
“Especially in urban areas, we get caught up in our daily living,” he suggests. “Understanding how policy and all of that works – it’s essential. I just moved to Pennsylvania, and my neighbor is involved in committees and other things. The opportunity presented itself for him to introduce me to politicians.”
Jeremy says it feels like fate or destiny to move to a new place and have the chance to get to know decision-makers in the community. Since starting school, this once “quitter” has made the Dean’s List a few times, and he knows he’s just getting started.
“I’m doing this because I want to study more after,” he says. “I want to go to law school. I just think that you don’t finish until you finish.”
He says he hopes his story of triumph over challenge can be a reason for someone else to march on toward their goals, whether it’s his children or a complete stranger.
“You never know what someone might be going through and just being a part of the reason they are inspired would be an extreme joy to me,” he says.
*This program is no longer accepting new enrollments.
Whitney Bradford is a senior content specialist and former University Advisor.
Certain degree programs are not available in all states.