Wondering if UMF is right for you?
With the support and guidance of the our dedicated advisors and faculty, many students have gone on to achieve their professional and personal goals. If you have some college credits, want to complete your bachelor’s degree, and want more out of your career, you’ll fit right in here. But don’t take our word for it, these students’ stories can give you a sense of what you can accomplish.
Most of the time when a person decides to take a break from college, the circumstances are beyond their control. Life happens, things change, and suddenly your life veers off in a completely different direction.
When Courtney Snowe’s program was cut from the UMF offerings, she had no choice but to pause and reevaluate her path forward.
“The ski industries program is honestly why I chose UMF over other schools I was looking at. Skiing has always been a big part of my life,” Snowe said. “When they got rid of that program I had a really hard time refocusing.”
Snowe stuck with it another year and a half, hoping to gain some momentum through a logistically challenging time. But finally, as her senior year was about to begin, she was offered real life opportunities that she couldn’t turn down. She started running the Mt. Abram alpine racing program in 2012 while simultaneously taking on a more active teaching role at a preschool/childcare she had been working at. The combination of the two was a dream situation for Snowe.
“So I decided I didn’t need this college thing because I clearly had it all figured out.”
For the next six years Snowe ran the ski program and taught early childhood education. She met her future husband, and they started a family just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. After having their first child, Snowe switched careers to a more steady, reliable office job at a local private school. She was good at the work, but never felt like it was her place. She missed her work with student athletes and young children.
“I hadn’t really figured out how I was going to get back to that or what exactly I wanted to do, but I knew that, longterm, the office setting wasn’t my happy place. Then Covid hit.”
She started teaching her children out of their home during the pandemic, and upon reflection, Snowe knew it was what she wanted to be doing for the rest of her life. She reached out to a number of schools looking for the quickest route to her teaching degree, but it was ultimately an administrator for UMF’s Degree Completion Program that hooked her.
“She was amazing. It was clear that she was there to help support me. She understood my story. Out of all the schools, I felt like she and the school appreciated that I wasn’t the kid who was 19 years old anymore.”
Snowe is an all-or-nothing type of person. When she sets a goal, she doesn’t stop until she’s achieved it. So she was blunt with the schools she was looking at. She wasn’t there to revive her “college experience.” She was there to get the job done so she could get back to real life.
“I didn’t have a lot of patience for explaining myself. I didn’t want to go through a drawn out application process. I didn’t have a stellar GPA when I dropped out, but that was me five years ago, that was me before kids, that was me before life experience. And when I talked to UMF I really felt like…okay, we can leave all the ‘teenager figuring life out drama’ where it belongs and get the job done. And I liked that. It’s why I chose UMF.”
Snowe graduated less than a year later with a bachelors in Liberal Studies and a concentration in elementary education. She was offered her full time dream job before she had even flipped her tassel. This will be her second year teaching kindergarten, and she’s in the midst of completing her masters degree.
“Everybody who goes through this as an adult is doing it for different reasons. I had the opportunity to go live it and fall on my face, but it’s been great to go back, full circle, and have all that perspective that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It’s made me a better teacher.”
Better When You’re Ready
Some people just aren’t made for college.
Or that’s what Larissa Martin used to believe anyway.
After several rounds of signing up for classes and dropping out, Larissa just figured she wasn’t cut out for it.
“I basically wrote that dream off completely. I thought that’s just not gonna be for me…”
At the time of making that decision, Larissa’s only goal in life was to put food on the table and keep a roof over her and her kids’ heads. When you’re sleeping in the back of your car, it can be tough to keep a hold of your dreams.
After a traumatizing car accident, Larissa lost her job due to frequent memory loss. Soon after, they were evicted from their apartment. And although those months were dark for Larissa, she kept her head up, kept her kid in school, and shifted her goal to a fresh start: Maine.
When they got here, Larissa hit the ground running with the newest chapter of her life. She enrolled in classes at Central Maine Community College, and took as many as she possibly could. Two years later she graduated with an associates degree in education.
“I just thought ok, well, I thought I could get my associates degree and I did, and then I found out that I was really, really good at it. I got really good grades and I really enjoyed it. So then I just kept setting my sights further and further and now I’m trying to figure out who I’m gonna go to for my master’s degree.”
Larissa enrolled with UMF’s Degree Completion Program in the fall of 2022 and graduated two semesters later with a bachelors in liberal studies and a concentration in history. After excelling at CMCC, Larissa said she realized she could pursue any degree she wanted, and not just settle for a teaching degree that she didn’t particularly want.
“I started realizing that I could get a doctorate in history or poly sci, and that something like that was totally feasible for me. I didn’t want to box myself in anymore.”
Not only did Larissa climb out of homelessness while raising two children, move across the country for a fresh start, and sign up for full time classes, she did it all while holding down a full time job. Now her 19-year-old is starting to look into college, with a little bit of encouragement from Vanessa, and even though her older son decided to take a break last fall, she tries to keep it in perspective.
“It was kind of like, oh man, I hate this that you’re dropping out, but at the same time, I had to keep thinking, okay, well I did that..and maybe he’s just not ready yet. Maybe it’s better when you’re ready.”
Larissa is good at letting her children be exactly who they are. Because all she’s ever wanted in life is to be exactly who she is: goal-oriented, motivated, a mover and a shaker. Someone who can’t sit still, but doesn’t really want to.
“I kind of feel like society forces us to have a particular story and that maybe that’s not the story that everybody has to have. Sometimes you just have to wait until it’s the right time. I shouldn’t have let fear stop me, but at the same time, I wasn’t ready yet. It wasn’t important to me. And now it’s important. It’s priority number one. I think I was just finally ready.”
It is Never too Late to Finish
Vanessa was only a student teaching semester away from graduating UMF with a bachelors in education in 2000. She was smart. She was hard working. She had dedicated four years to being a student and a college-level athlete.
“Looking back, it’s like…how could I just completely walk away? But, that was just where I was at. I wasn’t in a good place, so I figured I would take a little bit of time. And very quickly that became me getting married and having four kids.”
Even though Vanessa loved being a stay at home mom, she couldn’t stop thinking about that narrowly missed opportunity at Farmington. The idea kept pushing at her, while slathering peanut butter across a slice of bread, while kissing a scraped knee, while holding it all together…what if she had flipped a tassel that spring? What if there was a degree framed on the wall in the kitchen where she cut PB&Js into triangles? Would it change anything?
She wasn’t the first in her family to give space to those questions. Both her father and her grandfather went back to school to complete their degrees- her father went from being a long haul trucker to being a minister after 10 years of schooling, and her grandfather dove into medical school despite being in his fifties.
“It definitely had an influence on me. He showed me that you can go back and do things, it doesn’t matter how old you are. And I certainly wondered about it. I’m in my mid-forties, so I wondered if I was too old to be completely starting over with a career path. But I have a whole lot of life ahead of me.”
Starting again was the hardest part. Vanessa wasn’t sure where classes would fit into her family’s busy days, or where her newly discovered passions would fit into her old transcripts. Teaching was no longer appealing to Vanessa. After helping three of her four boys through speech therapy, she felt herself pulled to the field.
“I knew that to be a speech pathologist required a masters degree, and I didn’t even have my bachelors. It just felt like…how am I gonna do all that?”
But she called anyway, and after talking with an advisor in the program, she discovered she only needed two classes to get a BA in general studies. Vanessa will begin graduate school next month.
“If this program didn’t exist, this is not how things would have worked out for me, you know?”
From Flunking Out to Thriving
It had been 20 years since Charity Webster stepped foot in a college classroom. The first time around, in the late 90s, she went on a full scholarship designed to help young people work and study at the same time. After getting an associates in bio science, Charity went on with the goal of becoming a forensic scientist.
“I realized it kind of went against the grain of my beliefs and my morals. It was affecting me so much mentally and physically that I realized it wasn’t the career choice for me. I transferred and then, honestly, I flunked out.”
There were a lot of factors that lead to “flunking out” besides questioning her field of study- which is enough, all on its own, to cause people to stop going to classes. Charity said she was going through a time when everything she thought she knew was a lie. Her parents got divorced, and her brother, who had developmental disabilities and a mental health diagnosis, was put in a group home.
“There was tons of stuff going on…I just couldn’t handle it.”
Right around that same time, Charity got a really good job and decided to quit school. As a social worker, she felt fulfilled, and it felt, in a way, like she was advocating for her own brother. She continued with the company for the next seven years.
At 33, Charity and her husband Shawn found themselves navigating the muddy waters of infertility. Doctors chalked it up to stress, so finally, Charity decided to quit her job as a social worker. She picked up hours at a local childcare center and quickly fell in love with the work.
“That’s when I learned that I was in the wrong job. My passion had always been children, so why was I trying to do all these other things? Why hadn’t anyone told me to go be a teacher?”
Soon after, Charity got pregnant, and discovered her other calling in life- to be a mother.
“I got a phone call from the state one day, the director of the daycare had told them I might be interested in taking two foster children into my home. I had just had a baby, and everything I thought I knew about mothering was wrong. But they were right. I did take them.”
Then they found out there was another sibling. Within a matter of five years, Charity and Shawn went from thinking they might not ever have children, to having five. Charity became a full-time mom, and part-time homeschool teacher. Shawn was working 14 hours a day, with an hour commute each way.
“It was the hardest two and a half years of my life. I didn’t like myself. I questioned my choices. I felt stupid.”
For the next five years, Charity focused on creating stability for her kids (it only took a couple of years for her to officially adopt all three of her foster children). It was a family affair, with help from her mom and sister-in-law, they made sure that the kids were never put in daycare and never had to be with a babysitter. It was important to Charity that she be available for her new family.
Eventually, as her oldest, Zack, was getting ready to start middle school, Charity got offered a long term substitute teaching position for the middle school music class.
“The economy had changed, everything was more expensive, and we wanted to do more and more with our kids. We were always going somewhere, doing something, the kids were involved with a lot of things.”
So it made sense for Charity to start working again.
“The first month was crazy. But by Christmas break, I knew I loved it. I had this epiphany. I loved being in a school, being a part of that community of educators, and being a part of our greater community. I loved seeing over 500 kids a week. I loved spreading positive energy.”
She decided she was going to go back to school to get certified. She was 40 years old.
“I was ashamed to turn in my transcript to UMF, because that wasn’t me. To flunk out and not withdraw? That isn’t me. I’m not that kind of a person. How was I going to tell UMF that?”
But she did it, and that spring of 2020, Charity was accepted into UMF’s Bachelor in Liberal Arts program. She was working full time, maintaining stability for her family of seven, and taking 10-12 credits per semester. The restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic were a blessing in disguise for Charity because they allowed her to take classes at home or during downtime at work. Her school district even helped pay for one class each semester. By the time she graduated two years later she was taking 16 credits per semester without slowing down with her other commitments. She took classes all summer, and even picked up some credits by doing classes at UMA. Charity graduated Summa Cum Laude, with a 3.98 grade point average, down two points only because of her grades the first time around.
“I was overwhelmed with emotion at graduation. I had held it together, the whole time. And I had shown my kids that no matter what, no matter where you are, no matter what part of your life you’re in, stop if you’re not doing what you love. Just because something is hard, doesn’t mean you can’t do it and do it well.”
Rick was a student who left UMF in 2016 just a few classes short of completing his degree to become a Hot Shot fighting wildfires out West. Since then, he is moved back to New England where he’s currently employed with the US Forest Service. Because Rick is a veteran and his military benefits help with the cost of college, it was important that we help him finish up ASAP before his benefits lapse. His former major has been revamped, so we identified a different major that required some substitutions, he graduated in Summer 2023 with a BA in Environmental Science.
Caroline was an art major when life got complicated and she needed to step away from classes in the Spring of 2016. She started talking with one of our advisors in Spring of 2023 and made a plan to transition back to complete her degree. She was awarded a UMS Adult Degree Scholarships for her first class in June 2023.