Student Success: From Teen Mother to College Graduate
At the age of 16, Michelle Finch had her first child. It was the best thing that ever happened to her.
“I was going down a bad path, and having a child truly changed my life for the positive,” says Michelle. “I started thinking about my baby and what I wanted for our future.” Michelle’s final years of high school were filled with big life changes. Her now husband joined the Army in 2001, the couple was married early the next year, and Michelle’s husband was deployed to the Middle East the same month she graduated high school in 2002. After graduating with the help of a Boulder County teen parenting program, Genesis, Michelle went on to cosmetology school.
Returning to School
Throughout Michelle’s husband’s four-year military career, the couple had two more children. Michelle worked as a hair stylist and kept busy running the household, but she never stopped yearning for more education. In 2010, her husband headed back to school to take advantage of his GI Bill funds, and Michelle was admittedly jealous. “I kept thinking, what happens when my kids aren’t at home anymore and I have no education or skills?”
Michelle and her husband decided that after putting his career first for many years, it was her turn. In January 2011, she took her first class at Front Range Community College’s Boulder County Campus. Her daughter, the couple’s fourth child, was just four months old. “Front Range was my first choice because I knew so many people who had gone there and enjoyed it,” Michelle says.
Online Classes Help Put Family First
With a very clear vision in mind, Michelle has spent the last three years going to school—completely online. “Online classes work for me because I am a self-motivated person,” she says. “It really came down to good time management. I love going to school, but without the online option, I couldn’t have put my family first.”
Mentoring Other Young Mothers
All the while, Michelle has had a very clear vision in mind: becoming a mentor at Genesis, the very same program that helped her when she was a pregnant teen. “I have a heart for mentorship,” says Michelle, who has been a youth leader at her church. “I believe I am a good candidate to work there. I have successfully parented four children and I am married to the person who it all started with. I could speak to these young women about my journey and help them along in theirs.”
Earning Associate Degree
In December 2013, Michelle will finish her A.A. in Psychology at FRCC and she plans to transfer immediately to Colorado State University Global, where she will earn a bachelor’s in Social Sciences. “It’s a versatile degree that I think I could use if I decide down the road to do something different,” she says.
Sacrifice is Worthwhile
Earning her degree has not been easy—but Michelle already knows the sacrifice has been worthwhile. “Everyone’s story at FRCC is different, but for me, I want a degree that will make me happy and give me personal fulfillment,” Michelle says, adding that another valuable lesson is to talk to her children about education. “I’m already having conversations with my nine-year-old and 12-year-old about college. I know that our encouragement today will benefit them.”