The hero of her own journey, Madlyne Santiago demonstrates the determination and commitment ACE students have to their own success.
Madlyne first went to try college right after high school graduation and was accepted into the Harcum nursing program on main campus, but did not have transportation to get there. Second, she began with a local community college, but life at the time was just too chaotic to continue. Third, she unknowingly enrolled in a non-accredited school and discovered after a year of hard work and tuition payments that the credits would not transfer. The fourth time, with her supervisor’s words echoing in her mind,“if you want to get ahead in life, you’re going to need that piece of paper,” Madlyne enrolled in ACE. This time the program fit her work and life schedule as a single mother of a young daughter. “I couldn’t stop working, I couldn’t stop being a mother and needed to find a program that worked for me.”
Madlyne researched local colleges, found the partnership site program, and recognized that one site was in very familiar territory – down the street from her parents’ house! Eager to learn more and with her mind swirling with questions, Madlyne met with the site coordinator. At this introductory meeting alone, she found support, guidance and patience to answer all her questions from financial aid and projected student debt to an honest description of how her daily life and time needed to change to accommodate school. “She met me where I was, and provided the clarity and assurance I needed to take this step.”
Excited, nervous, and not knowing what to expect on the first day of class, Madlyne walked into the site and found a community of strong support that she credits with her degree completion. “That was why I didn’t give up this time. They made you feel so welcome and important and encouraged me the entire way.” Even when covid hit and classes went virtual, Madlyne found support among a community of peers in the Community Scholars Leadership Program. She recognized a beautiful fact of the ACE program, “As an adult, a parent, and employee, I knew that this was a part of my life that I’m not going to do by myself.”
Madlyne earned her associate degree in December 2020. Reflecting on the impact the associate degree program has had on her life, she says, “It not only prepared me academically for my bachelor’s degree, I feel accomplished and confident. It’s given me motivation to continue to go forward, I know that I can do it. It’s not just a piece of paper. The journey that’s attached to that piece of paper is where the real value stands.”
On the journey alongside Madlyne is her biggest supporter, her daughter, who had to adjust to having a lot less time together since Mom began college. “I’d thank her all the time. When I did receive the physical degree, I told my daughter, ‘I did it for us,’ and that she deserves to hold it too.”
Upon completion of the associate degree program, Madlyne gained a promotion at work and is just one year away from earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Organizational Leadership.