Roughly 20 years ago I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life and chose to drop out of college. In 2010 after years of saying I wanted to finish my degree and become a music teacher, I finally stopped talking and took action. In order to return to school I had to give up my full-time job, so that I could focus on my goal. I felt in order to be the best teacher I could be I needed to basically start over and learn everything I could. When I began school again at the age of 39, over 60 credits were transferred in. I was not aware that after so many hours they eventually cut off financial aid.
Two years ago my health started to take a turn for the worse; but I refused to give up on school. I struggled through one semester while dealing with congestive heart failure; but I managed to pass most of my classes with decent grades. Last summer just when I thought I was getting better I began to notice that something was not right and after months of going to the doctor I was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. By the time I found out the fall semester had already started, and I had to withdraw. I was enrolled in 17 hours worth of classes that would be some of the last I would have to take.
Although I had to take time off from school I continued to perform with two of the ensembles. I did this to help out the ensembles I was committed to as well as to help lift my spirits during the 9 months of chemo treatments I went through. In May I was told that I was cancer free and completed my last rounds of chemo. I was given the all clear by my doctor to return to school.
Unfortunately those 17 hours I had to withdraw from put me over the limit to receive any financial aid. During my illness I went to apply for short-term disability; but after talking with Social Security I was told that because of all my illnesses I qualified for full disability.
Finding out that because of my poor health I would now be on disability and not able to return to work was disturbing to me, so I made up my mind that I would begin to do all I could to change my health and to do whatever I could to complete my degree and become the teacher that I have always dreamed of being. As for my health I have returned to the gym (under the guidance of my doctors). I have also returned to cycling, and every other day I ride between 20-30 miles.
I will continue to do what I can to improve my health so that by the time I graduate in 3 semesters I can return to work. In order to complete school, that will take the assistance of others. As of now I am enrolled in 14 credit hours, and should only have about 9 credits for the spring semester, after that I will do my student teaching and graduate. I am asking for help with the fall 2014 semester, after that I will put aside some of the money I get from disability to help me pay for the remaining semesters on my own.
My life story is a very long and painful one; which one day may be put into a book; but when I graduate I will be the first person on my mother’s side of the family to get a college degree. I have 20 plus nieces and nephews who look up to me and if I can inspire them to go to college then all my struggles will be worth it.
- Steven Dziabis
- Staci Mooney
- Scott Keadle
- James Burns
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