Initiated in 2008, Excelsior College’s Partners in Lifelong Learning has raised more than $430,000 benefiting more than 400 adult students in financial need from the New York Capital Region and its surrounding areas. With the seventh annual celebration scheduled for April 23, 2014, Excelsior Life catches up with past winners to learn how earning a degree helped shape their life.
Excelsior College graduate and ‘Partners in Lifelong Learning’ scholarship recipient Amanda Passaretti and her daughter, Annika.
No one needed to convince Amanda Kristine Passaretti of the importance of earning a degree – the Catskill, New York resident discovered inspiration in many places, both personally and professionally.
“I wanted to be the first person in my immediate family to earn a college degree,” said Passaretti. “I spent many years working and realized that the jobs I wanted required a four year degree…and I felt limited.”
Yet she knew going back to school for a degree would be tough on both her and her family. She worked as an account supervisor for her local municipality, owned a small business, served on the board of two local charity organizations, and was pregnant with a daughter. She needed a degree plan that would provide the flexibility to balance academics with work and home life.
The search for flexibility brought Passaretti to Excelsior College in 2010, although she would still need financial assistance to transform her dreams of degree achievement a reality. The Partners in Lifelong Learning Scholarship helped make tuition costs “affordable and cover the costs of books, as well as a new computer” to use for her studies. A grant offered to graduates of Excelsior community college partners helped defray additional costs.
Passaretti pursued a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Business Management in order to maximize previously earned credit and leverage college-level subject matter expertise accumulated outside of the classroom throughout her career. By utilizing Portfolio Assessment through the Center for Adult and Experiential Learning and transferring in additional credits earned at community college, Passaretti needed just 46 credits at Excelsior to complete her degree.
While she initially felt trepidation over the online model, she quickly found she could manage the hardest part – her time – by adhering to a consistent study, work, and home schedule.
The hard work culminated for Passaretti on July 13, 2012 when she heard her name called and walked across stage to receive her diploma in front of numerous family and friends, including her two-year old daughter Annika. She graduated with honors.
“It was my proudest Excelsior moment…and it’s a day I will never forget and I certainly hope when my daughter Annika looks back at photos from that day that she knows anything in life is possible if you set your mind to it,” said Passaretti.
The investment is already paying dividends. Passaretti credits her bachelor’s degree for two promotions, while simultaneously opening the door to numerous opportunities. It’s the reason she has encouraged others to follow her lead, including a friend who remains part of her support system to this day.
“When each of us feel stressed or begin to struggle with balancing school, work and family, we remind each other why we are here and how close we are to achieving our goals,” said Passaretti. “Having a friend who knows what you are going through and understands the commitment and focus it takes to be an adult learner really helps.”
But she’s not done yet. Passaretti is currently working as the fiscal officer for local government, earning valuable experience in operations and strategic planning. And, in a few months she plans to walk across stage to receive a diploma once again, this time for an Excelsior College MBA.
It’s an opportunity, she says, that will not only provide a path to earn more money, but make a difference in the business world.
“Knowing you have a college degree gives you the confidence and self-esteem to go for a career you want.”
Read about more Partners in Lifelong Learning Awardees: