It’s Never Too Late to Earn a College Degree

WILMINGTON – The decision to return to college is different for many people.  For 41- year-old Juanita Dupree, of Bladenboro, NC, and 35-year-old Stacy Bellamy Grate, of Tabor City, NC, the decision to return to school was a necessity.  New regulations for preschool Head Start teachers required it.  Two of the new regulations stipulate that all associate teachers in the head start programs need to have an associate, baccalaureate, or advanced degree in early childhood education (ECE); or an associate degree in a field related to ECE.

Dupree and Grate, both full-time employees with Four County Community Services, In., were informed the new regulations would require them to return to college to get their degrees.
Dupree, a single mother to Kahshanna Dupree, 17, said, “I love my job, and I have a daughter to support, so I knew that I had to get the ball rolling. I just didn’t know where to start.”
At first the task seemed daunting – going back to college after so many years, and having to juggle work, family responsibilities and college all at the same time.  Then the pair heard about the Early Childhood Education program at University of Mount Olive at Wilmington.
“Taking one class at a time keeps you focused on that class.”  Grate said. “The one-night-a-week program was good for me because I only had to sacrifice one night to reach my goal and obtain my degree.  I did not have to miss any work to get a college education.”
Even the long distance travel which equated to about a three-hour round trip did not deter the women.  Family support was another key factor in their success.  “My family was very supportive,” admits Grate.  “They took care of my girls and took them to dance for me.”  Grate has two daughters, Tasia-13, and Taleyah-8.  “My family made sure their homework was done, so I did not have to worry about them at all!”  Dupree can attest to the importance of family support while going to college.  “My parents, my sister, and my brother took turns taking my daughter to her dance classes and attending her track meets because I was not able to make them.  Their help was tremendous.”
Dupree and Grate graduated in December 2011 and both agree that their degrees from University of Mount Olive have helped their careers.  Since earning her degree Grate has been promoted to Associate Teacher working with the three to five year olds at Tabor City Head Start.  Dupree, an Associate Teacher with Mt. Olive Head Start said, “My degree has given me the opportunity to learn new information that I can apply in my class. I have learned a lot of great techniques that I use with my students.”
Grate and Dupree have advice for other adults who may be pondering returning to school, “I would highly recommend that they go to University of Mount Olive,” suggests Dupree.  “It is the ideal program for working adults.”  Grate said, “Just do it!  Every day will not be an easy task, but with dedication and patience you can succeed…take it from us.”
University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The College, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Goldsboro, Research Triangle Park, Washington and Jacksonville.  For more information, visit