By Myra Saturen
January 25, 2014
Sharelle Brown was seventeen, a freshman at Montclair State College in New Jersey, when her father died. "I was shattered, devastated," she says. Unable in her grief to concentrate on her studies, she shelved her college dreams. Then, when Brown was 25, her mother died and she gave birth to twin girls. A single mother with no parents to call upon for help, she cared for her children while also working fulltime.
Yet, on January 25, at age 54, Brown realized her long-ago goal: she crossed the NCC stage in cap and gown, having earned her associate degree in general studies. It is an accomplishment she pursued starting in 2008, while working fulltime, paying a mortgage and taking two classes per semester.
Brown returned to college at the urging of her daughter Antoinique, an NCC student. "Each semester was a challenge," Brown says.
To meet this challenge, Brown got up at 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. to begin her typical day, which included a drive from her home in Bethlehem to her job as an administrative assistant for three executive directors at Applied Communication Sciences in Valley Forge.
She chose NCC by its reputation and also because the College offered online classes that accommodated her busy life. "At first I was nervous," Brown says. "I wondered how my younger classmates would perceive me. Would they wonder what I was doing there?" But she quickly found herself fitting in.
Brown says she is grateful to her professors and especially to Dr. Sharon Lee-Bond, professor of biology. "She gives so much of herself to help students," Brown says.
Lee-Bond characterizes Brown as "a student with an enthusiasm for learning, a dedicated work ethic and a positive can-do attitude."
The first in her family to obtain a college degree and the grandmother of two, Brown says that it is never too late. "Set your goals and stick to them, no matter how long it takes. Stay focused," she says. She also recommends the Learning Center. "It plays an important part for students who have returned to school and may have been out of a classroom for years."
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