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.
To realize her career aspirations of becoming a nurse educator, Jennie Zakrzewski knew she needed to finish her degree. However, like many adult learners, she was unsure which educational pathway would work best for her life.
“I wanted to further myself, become more than what I was,” says Zakrzwski, a school nurse and mother of six – including two currently serving in the US Army. “But I was turned off by past experiences at traditional schools.”
Research led the Skylerville, New York native to Excelsior, a private, nonprofit, distance learning institution and the largest educator of nurses in the country. In 2013, she enrolled in the College’s Associate of Science in nursing program.
“I had done online courses before and found them easier to work around my schedule,” said Zakrzewski. “I have six grandkids. With Excelsior, I can go in-between diaper changes to work on my course or finish a reading. I’ve even taken a kid to lacrosse practice and worked on assignments from the field.”
While the coursework has been challenging at times, Zakrzewski credits her family for supporting her along the way and the Partners in Lifelong Learning scholarship for helping to lessen the financial burden.
“My husband and children took over many of the household tasks to give me time to work on my coursework,” she says.
Of course the pursuit of higher education requires a certain level of self-motivation, especially when life throws you a curveball.
“I actually had brain surgery in December, which presents an enormous challenge not only scholastically but personally. (But) I’ve worked hard to recuperate while maintaining my grades. You have to be motivated.”
Once she completes her degree, Zakrzewski has her sights set on continuing her educational journey and enrolling in Excelsior’s graduate program in nursing.
“My associate’s (degree) will let me find full-time work,” she says. “With a master’s degree, I can become an educator.”
Read about other Partners in Lifelong Learning Awardees:
John Paul Ciejka