Karla Bennets

With a Little Help from My Friends

They took the time to get to know us as students, made sure the materials were presented in a way that was understandable yet exciting

If you ever speak to any adult who has ever made the decision to go back to school to pursue or complete a college degree, no doubt the word "fear" will be mentioned. The fear of paying tuition; the fear of having enough time; the fear of math, science or writing; even the fear of finding a parking spot and finding the correct classroom can cause uneasiness for those who are returning to school after a long hiatus.

When Karla Bennetts enrolled at Central Community College to pursue a degree, it had been 37 years since she had been in school. Plus, she worked full-time and had four children still living at home. Nevertheless, the degree was necessary for her employment with Families CARE, a nonprofit organization that provides services to parents who have children with emotional, behavioral or mental health challenges.

One of Bennetts' fears was realized early on when she took her pre-enrollment assessment. While she scored high on reading and writing, her math scores were low enough that she required some foundational work. However, the help she needed was right there.

"I literally had not had math since 1974," said Bennetts. "The professor that helped me, I sure wish I could recall his name, was great and he broke it down to where I could understand algebra. I was able to pass the two math classes at the college level that I needed."

In addition to the math professor, Bennetts fondly remembers Joyce Meinecke and Janice Hill as her favorite professors.

"They took the time to get to know us as students, made sure the materials were presented in a way that was understandable yet exciting," said Bennetts. "I was never bored in a lecture."

Bennetts said Hill even stepped up when it came to graduation time this past May. Bennetts was unable to attend CCC's commencement because her daughter was graduating from high school on the same day. However, Bennetts has a tangible reminder of her graduation thanks to Hill.

"Janice Hill let me go in her office and try on a cap and gown that she had and took a picture of me, so my kids and grandkids have a picture of me in the cap and gown," said Bennetts.

Even in non-academic matters, Bennetts' fears were eased. Such was the case when she changed her major. Bennetts was walked through the process of making the necessary changes and it turned out to be a fairly simple process. She admits that changing majors left her with a few courses that she probably would not have needed, but she enjoyed them anyway.

Perhaps, the thing that was most helpful to Bennetts in earning her degree was the ability to take online courses and work at her own pace.

"Because I had kids at home, I was able to get them to bed and then have quiet time at home to focus on my studies," said Bennetts. "A lot of my friends thought I was nuts for adding one more thing to my plate, but the online classes gave me something that I was doing for myself. So, it was actually a self-care for me in the midst of a crazy, busy life. I looked forward to that time."

Today, as the executive director of Families CARE, Bennetts implements the concepts she learned in improving the work environment for her staff and others people she works with.

"The business classes I took were all about supervisory and management skills. Because I got that certification, they have really added a lot into how I communicate with my staff and keep them encouraged, as well as my communication with other professionals around the state that I have to collaborate with," said Bennetts.

Bennetts' experience at CCC has set a great example for her children and grandchildren because they can see what an education can do for them and that they too can earn a degree. Additionally, Bennetts is now in a better position to help them with their school work.

"Prior to going to college, I couldn't help any of my kids over sixth grade with their math, and now I can sit down and help them with their algebra problems," said Bennetts.