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Michelle Jones

SBVC's 2013 Commencement speaker proves age is no barrier after redirecting economic downturn into college success

michelle jones headshot in cap and gownWhen she walks across the stage at SBVC’s 2013 Commencement on May 24th, Michelle Jones will be receiving her second noteworthy recognition of the year

“One of my friends pointed out how most people don’t get the chance to receive their AARP card in the same year as their college degree,” Jones said.

After decades of well-paying jobs in human resources, finance, and management, Michelle found herself facing an extended period of unemployment in 2010.

“I was always in the right place at the right time—when one job ended, there was another great opportunity waiting for me and I never missed a paycheck,” Michelle said. “I have always been a good employee, was progressively gaining experience, and was making more money than people around me with advanced degrees. I couldn’t see what a degree was going to do for me.”

But, during the economic downturn, no jobs were waiting in the wings after another layoff, and she decided to enroll at SBVC at the age of 53. Starting as a teenager growing up in Indiana, Michelle took a few classes over the years, but never applied herself to pursue a degree.

Despite managing million-dollar budgets at her previous jobs, Michelle’s assessment results placed her into basic arithmetic classes—creating an uphill climb to reach her goal of an associate’s degree in accounting.

“I had already enrolled in a class at Valley right before I was laid off, but couldn’t mentally bring myself to get to the campus and actually take the class,” said the resident of Highland.

After discussing matters with her husband and family (all of whom had already graduated from college), she committed herself to become a full-time student and adjusted the family’s spending habits accordingly.

“Every time hot dogs would go on sale for 99 cents, I was there,” Michelle admitted. “I wouldn’t be able to cook for the family as much but knew that even if we had cereal and hot dogs, we would be okay.”

Some of those savings went to hiring a tutor to help get through math classes, but Michelle soon discovered a free resource available to all students.

“I tried stopping in at the Student Success Center and met a tutor named Andrew. He was so patient and really helped me out for two hours every week,” Michelle said. “Before our sessions, I would always do my homework first so that in our limited time together I could ask a lot of questions. I couldn’t have gotten through Algebra without him.”

After starting in the spring of 2011, Michelle proceeded to earn a 3.0 grade point average every semester—including taking a whopping 12 units in the summer of 2012. Despite her full schedule, she still found time to volunteer at her church and with local charities while also preparing her 2-year old granddaughter for her collegiate future.

“I remember when my granddaughter was only a few months old and I wanted to read to her, but I had to keep studying, so I read to her from my economics textbook,” Michelle said.

Michelle’s career aspirations are to get a job as an office manager where her skills of creativity, time management, and organization can keep everything going smoothly in the organization. She is even considering some additional coursework in human resources at CSU San Bernardino.

Five generations of her family—including her 93-year-old grandmother and her 2-year old future economist granddaughter—are scheduled to be in attendance to watch Michelle walk across the stage as a college graduate at SBVC’s 86th Annual Commencement Ceremony on May 24, 2013, at 9:00 a.m. in the SBVC Football Stadium.