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Meet Thomas Jarrett. An honors graduate of Harcum College, who is now pursuing his Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work at West Chester University. But he didn’t start there. Like many adult students, Thomas had tried college before. He dropped in and out of classes at the local community college, but just didn’t feel ready to commit to a full degree program. Then he had to officially drop out to take care of family members in poor health. Thomas bounced around a few retail jobs and then landed a position as manager and then supervisor, which came with a crazy schedule. But higher education never left his mind. Younger cousins needed help figuring out this thing called ‘college’ and finding their way through college entrance exams (SATs). Thomas advised them and paid for test prep classes. A natural helper, Thomas was glad to be there, but started to feel resentment for their opportunity and his responsibility.  “I knew it was the right thing to do, but I felt stuck.” 

Thomas didn’t like these negative feelings or the fact that his work schedule dictated his life. He felt like his life path was set and opportunity had passed him by. Unwilling to settle for such dissatisfaction with his current conditions, he decided to take some time off work to reflect. In those quiet moments, Thomas saw that this wasn’t the end of the road for him. And on that same vacation, he saw a Facebook Ad to go to college right in his community through the Partnership Sites program of Harcum College and I-LEAD, Inc. He knew right away that now was his time to go back to college.  

Thomas realized that he could attend classes right up the street from where he lived and reached out to the contact person. Even though worried because he had been out of school for six years, Thomas enrolled in the Human Services Associate Degree program. When classes started and he began reading the course materials, the pieces of his journey to college came together. “Everything I was doing: taking care of my family members, serving as a role model, helping people determine the next steps in their lives…I had been living Human Services! I just didn’t know it!” 

He understood that his natural habit of helping others was an expression of what he wanted to do with his life. This shift in mindset reframed all of Thomas’ life experience to date. He saw purpose in that time of being what he thought was off-track. “Everyone has their season. The journey is the journey. This is mine.”

That’s one way new steps in life happen. You commit to that one step, and then begin to see opportunity in circumstances that had felt so limiting just a short time ago.  

Thomas Jarrett is an ACE Community Scholar; and so are you.