"It proved to me I could do anything ... and it’s given me the confidence to take on other challenges outside of work and college."
When Laura Hilliard was in high school, she dreamed of going to college, but an often challenging and a neglectful upbringing meant her needs, both short and long term, were not considered.
I recognized the impossibility of attaining a degree then, and didn't consider it again as an adult," Hilliard said.
Hilliard said there was always a degree of shame that she attached to not have a degree in her profession, so as a single mom, she stressed the importance of education to her two children, watching proudly as they did something she had yet to do - earn their degrees.
When I paid my youngest child's last tuition payment before he graduated, I considered that it was possible for me to meet the challenge for myself that I had set out for them," Hilliard said. "I applied to SNHU within a month."
Her goal was to show herself, and her children, she was capable of earning a degree despite her fear that it would be difficult to manage an online education in her 50s.
In May, Hilliard achieved the dream she had as a child, earning her Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
She said she anticipated a disconnect regarding building relationships with others as an online student, so she was surprised by the connections she formed with professors, students and her advisors.
I have never felt so supported in an experience as I have at SNHU," Hilliard said, remarking that university's motto, "See Yourself Succeed," was embedded in every interaction with faculty, staff and students. "It's like having your own personal cheerleading squad."
Hillard said the experience also deepened her connection with her children. "We have a shared experience now that allows us to talk about the incredible value a college degree adds to your life, beyond the financial gains," she said. "My kids have surprised me with their support and encouragement through this process, and I know that helped motivate me on days when I needed it."
Earning her bachelor's degree left Hillard wanting more. She's beginning her MSN in Nursing Education at SNHU in September.
I'm motivated by a desire to soak in as much experience as I can in this life," Hilliard said. "Attaining a BSN was seriously life-altering for my self-esteem and how I view myself. I'm incredibly proud of how hard I worked to finish a degree in two years while working full time, and earning a 4.0 in the process. It proved to me I could do anything I set my mind to, and it's given me the confidence to take on other challenges outside of work and college.