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Do You Know Us?

Student Personas

These twelve student personas were created through a two year design thinking process that synthesized hundreds of interviews, discussions, and surveys with CCBC students, faculty, staff, and administrators.  We worked together to identify typical students and their backgrounds as well as the unique experiences they have as a CCBC student.  We are using these personas to listen to and better understand all of our students so that as a college, we can better serve and support them.

Amanda

A Day in the Life: AMANDA

Two steps forward and one step back. That’s how my life feels sometimes. At age 28, I have yet to accomplish much - Unless, of course, you consider mastering the art of extreme couponing an accomplishment.

I was just about to begin my college studies when my first son came along. Then, after #2 arrived, my then-boyfriend up and left and my very strict parents cut me off financially. At that point, there was no way I could take care of myself and my children and be a successful student all at the same time.

Now, we live with my new boyfriend in Ambridge, and I am currently holding down a less than ambitious job at Wendy’s. My sons are ages five and three, and while I wouldn’t trade them for anything things have just not gone according to plan.

I try to stay positive and hold on to the dream of one day owning my own bakery, but, unfortunately, life gets in the way of dreams sometimes. Right now, it’s all I can do keep my head above water and provide for my boys and me.

A few days later, after tucking the kids into bed and picking up the army of action figures scattered about the living room, I sit down at the kitchen table to sort through my coupons and calculate my always tight grocery budget. Told you it was an art form!

I begin to imagine what it would be like to finish what I started and go back to school. Then, I stop myself. What am I thinking, anyhow? I am so obviously not college material at this point. My schedule is jammed packed enough as it is. How could I juggle mine and my boyfriend’s jobs, the kids, and coursework all at the same time?

 

Besides, I am almost certain that I will fail in the courses that don’t provide make-up testing opportunities and I know the instructors won’t see family responsibilities as a valid reason for missing class. I need flexibility in order to be successful. Is there a college out there that can really provide this kind of support for me and my dreams? Doubtful!

Determined to find out for sure though, I flip on my computer and type “Culinary Arts Degrees” into my favorite search engine. Up pops the home page for Community College of Beaver County. The headline reads: “It’s time. Register now.” Intrigued, I begin to explore the site further and find not only several culinary arts offerings, but also a variety of student services to help me along the way.

Could CCBC be the road to my future? Maybe it’s time to find out. . . .

 

 

 

Andrew

A Day in the Life: ANDREW

I am sitting on the frayed couch in my small apartment in Monaca paying bills and trying to balance my lean checking account when the phone rings. I glance quickly at the caller ID and debate answering.

It’s my boss from the local Applebee’s where I currently work as a bus boy. Someone has called off at the last minute (of course!), and he needs me to work the closing shift tonight. But, here’s my dilemma. I have an evening class scheduled for Monday nights at CCBC where I am enrolled as a Business major.

Earning my college degree and becoming a successful manager someday is really important to me. But, money is also very important to me right now. I know I need to earn more to pay for books next semester (not to mention that overdue cell phone bill!). So, I weight the pluses and minuses in my head, and end up deciding to take the extra shift at work. I grab my iPhone to quickly send off an email to my professor to apologize that I have to work over and will not be attending class again tonight.  Trying my best to stay on top of my school work and not get behind, I also ask her if she could please forward me any information or assignments that I will miss.

Once at work, my mind wanders as I go through the motions of clearing off and wiping down table after table. I can’t help but think about how busy my life is and how I really have no time for anything but work and school. Sometimes I feel like I am walking a tightrope and it will take only one misstep to send me and my dreams for the future crashing to the ground.

Soon, my thoughts turn back to my five year high school reunion. I had such a good time seeing everyone last weekend. We used to hang out and just do nothing. Look at them! They are graduating from universities and starting new jobs, planning weddings and buying first homes. Now look at me. I have to juggle dead-end minimum wage jobs and work lots of overtime just to pay my rent and utilities. I’m not where I wanted to be at 24. Where is my independence? Where is my fun?

Later that evening, I am back at home after working a 10-hour shift and I just want to crash and catch up on some much-needed sleep. Instead, I grab an energy drink, turn on some country music, and open my Accounting I book to start studying for tomorrow’s test in my 8 a.m. class. I didn’t want that 8 a.m. class, but that was all that was left. (I need to remember to register early next time!) I glance at the fridge and the list of Fortune 500 companies I’ve posted there to remind myself why I enrolled at CCBC in first place.

I want to be a business executive. I want to be successful with a career and money, and to travel and start a family. I want to be challenged in a good learning environment where I can be accepted and not judged for not starting college after high school like everyone else seems to do. I want someone to help me when I need it, and to make some friends along the way.

Reenergized, I make up my mind to study until 2 a.m. Then, I’ll be able to catch some shut eye for few hours, and be ready to ace that exam in the morning.

I can do this.

 

I am on the road to my future after all . . . . . 

Brittany

A Day in the Life: BRITTANY

Every day for me is the same.

I get up early each morning to help my mother care for my ailing father before heading off to my full-time job as a receptionist at a local community outreach organization. As I drive to work, I escape the daily grind by listening to the radio, and my mind begins to wander. How I will ever be able to advance in my career at the rate I am going?  I love the work I do, but I want more. 

As I try to shake away the negative thoughts running through my head, an advertisement comes on the radio.  It is for my local community college.  They are talking about the road to my future.  I would love to be able to go to college and improve myself and advance in my current position. At the same time, I think about my parents. They depend on me for so much right now. How will I ever be able to attend classes, work full-time, and be at home to help out?  Then the friendly radio voice mentions earning college credits at home. Did they just say that they offer online, flexible classes? Now that is something that could work for me, and I make a mental note to call CCBC’s admissions office on my lunch break to schedule an appointment.

That was six weeks ago.  Up until then, I felt that I was constantly running, but never getting anywhere – stuck in place with no hope for a change in sight.

Look at me now! I just completed my first two classes, earned six credits, and have already registered for two more classes for next semester. I am working on earning specific credits that apply to my chosen career path – social work. My supervisor has already given me a promotion and a brighter future is clearer and closer than it has ever been before.

It hasn’t been easy, but it has been rewarding.  I get frustrated at times doing classes online because my computer freezes up or my mother needs help with my father during a timed-test.  My father is bed-ridden and while my mom does her best to avoid interrupting me, there are times it cannot be avoided.  My professors have been understanding about my situation, however it has still cost me a few points here and there. 

My family is proud of me.  I am proud of me.  My boss is proud of me.  Who knows, I may even decide to keep going and earn my associate’s degree.

I think I finally found the right road to my future. . . . .

Chris

A Day in the Life: CHRIS

I have such a feeling of accomplishment as I submit my application for graduation.  I can’t help thinking how this journey began almost three years ago.

I was living on my own working a seasonal construction job.  I hated that job; it was boring and back-breaking work for low pay.  That day I didn’t even have enough money for the bus ride home and had to “beg” a co-worker for a ride. I remembered my dream of being an engineer and decided that since CCBC was so close to home, I would take the bus (after my next pay day!) and visit the campus.

When I arrived on campus that day I was directed to the information desk, and after that, it all happened like clockwork – I enrolled in classes, kept working to supplement my financial aid and cover the costs of tuition and books, completed the requirements for an associate’s degree in Pre-Engineering, and am now ready to graduate.

To be honest thought, I’m not even sure anyone knew I was there. Looking back on my experience at CCBC, it would have been nice to make more friends, get some extra help with my writing skills, find a faculty mentor, or even participate in an internship program.

Regardless, I accomplished my goals, and am ready to move on.

But still, I have ask myself: What’s next?

I’ve come to the bend in the road to my future . . . . 

 

Clarence

A Day in the Life: CLARENCE

It takes me forever to get ready to go anywhere. I am 25 years old and in a wheelchair so even everyday tasks like getting dressed and brushing my teeth are slow going for me and usually require extra assistance.

When you're in a chair, it's hard to feel like you've ever grown up. Everyone's always doing stuff for you. They get freaked out by saying the wrong things, so they coddle you. Sometimes it's hard to ever picture a life of being totally self-sufficient.

Deciding to go to college was a big step for me, but it's the first time in my life have ever felt like a grown man, and that has been the greatest gift.

I want to be a writer, and I’ve found that for the most part my professors at CCBC and the staff in the Supportive Services Office are very helpful. Sometimes instructors don’t understand at first that classroom work has to be adjusted for me, and sometimes students ignore me, but I understand and am more or less used to that. It’s been that way my whole life.

I have the intelligence to succeed, but often little things deter me.  Sometimes the building doors are just too heavy for me to manage on my own, and sometimes the elevators are super slow or too busy for me to get to class on time.

I’ve joined the writer’s club, and I’ve found that the student advisor is very friendly.  She has urged me to get involved in student government, and I think that would help for other students to see me as just another student. I want to be treated like everyone else.

There are certainly days when I feel like giving up, but overall, I am glad that I’m at CCBC.

Still, as graduation day approaches, I worry that when I transfer to a larger campus, I may not fit in as well or be as successful. In fact, I often find myself slowing my academic progress down because I’m not sure I want to leave.

Maybe the road to my future stops right here. . . . .

David

A Day in the Life: DAVID

Looking back, I can still see the festive red, white, and blue banner proclaiming “Welcome Home, David” blowing in the breeze as my family ran to greet me at the airport four months ago.

Since then, things have not exactly gone according to plan. What I thought were flexible, employable skills acquired during my time in the military, I am coming to find out are not transferable to current job openings. Not that there are that many out there to begin with it.

After spending the past four years of my life defending our country in Afghanistan, I am finding it harder than I imagined to get back into the routine of normal life. My world view has changed. I have changed.

In high school, I was an average student, but excelled once I joined the Marines after graduation. While there I learned how to drive tanks and acquired skills for sharp-shooting and handheld radar usage in the field. I was exposed to some of the most cutting edge technology available to man today. I even worked in the office helping with bookkeeping and accounting.

But, who cares. Look where it’s gotten me now that I am back home on American soil – exactly nowhere.

Talk about going from hero to zero, huh?

To add to the pressure I am constantly putting on myself to “find something to do “I am going to be a father soon. My wife, Stephanie is pregnant with our first child. While in the Marines I had steady pay and benefits. Now, I need to be at home with my growing family. I am glad to be home, don’t get me wrong. But, I need to be able to work and to earn family-sustaining wages, too.

 

Sitting on the fold-out couch my wife and I are currently occupying in my mother’s basement, I realize I need to find a job sooner rather than later. I have nine months, give or take, before the baby arrives. My wife can hold down her job as a beautician for a little while longer, but then it will all be up to me. Fast-track training with guaranteed job opportunities waiting for me when I finish is exactly what I need.

Unfortunately, I just don’t know where to start looking. I hear a lot of talk about the new types of jobs coming to our region, and I know that there are Veteran’s Benefits out there for guys like me to go back to school, but I am at loose ends as to where to go from here.

The next evening, over Chinese take-out, Stephanie suggests I stop by the local CareerLink office for information on job openings and training opportunities.

With nothing better to do to fill my days, the next morning I head off to CareerLink where a sign in the window announces information sessions for an upcoming welding training program at Community College of Beaver County.

I open the door, step inside and ask the lady behind the desk, “Where do I sign up?”

I think I just found my road to my future. . . . .

Emily

A Day in the Life: EMILY 

My alarm goes off and the radio immediately starts blaring out the latest Taylor Swift song. Grumbling to myself, I roll over, slam the snooze button, and pull the covers back up over my head.

Not long after that, I hear my mom’s voice shouting up at me from the bottom of the stairs – “It’s time to get up.” Good thing I have mom around or I would probably never make it to my early morning classes at CCBC or to my shifts at Starbucks. She keeps me on schedule, that’s for sure.

Slowly, I tumble out of bed dressing in leggings, an over-sized GAP sweater, and my favorite pair of UGG boots. As I make my way downstairs, I mentally scroll through my “to do” list for the day.

  • Classes from 9 a.m.-noon
  • Tanning appointment at 1 p.m.
  • Work shift at Starbucks from 3-9 p.m.
  • Finish and submit research paper

 

 

I quickly send off a text message to my best friend, Katie, asking her if she wants to meet up for lunch on campus later. Then, I grab a muffin and a banana from the kitchen counter, and I’m out the door and ready to start my day.

While this isn’t exactly how I pictured spending my college days, I can’t complain. Yes, there are no dorms, no sororities to join, and no roommate to cram with before finals, but my parents have promised me that if I used the first two years at CCBC to figure out what I wanted to do, work to save money, and make good grades, then they would pay for the remaining two years of my education at the four-year college or university of my choice. And, though at first I gave them a hard time, and felt embarrassed to admit to my fellow seniors that I was going to “Cuck-A-Buck-A” after graduation, it was a deal I just couldn’t pass up.

With one year down and one to go, I am getting ready to move on. Earning my bachelor’s degree is important to me especially now that I have decided I want to be a lawyer. I have exceled in the classroom here at CCBC and have an impressive list of extracurricular activities on my transcript, including Student Government President. Transfer should be a breeze.

Looking back, I have to admit that my parents were right on this one. CCBC was the smart place for me to start - both academically and financially.

Now, I am well on my way, and the road to my future is headed straight for success. . . .

 

Heather

A Day in the Life: HEATHER

I have always enjoyed my job at the Penny Saver, but with the changes in the field, people really aren’t reading newspapers anymore. I got into this job when I finished my associate’s degree, but since then, I haven’t had time to take additional classes in order to brush up on my skills and I think it’s hurting my chances for advancement.

I am torn about what to do next though. At this point in my life, I want to be able to raise my children and only work part-time. This job has been perfect for that. Some weeks I can get almost 30 hours without it being steady, full-time work. The job is manageable with my duties as wife and mother, and I like the people I work with.

Still the next morning, as I pack lunches, get the kids on the school bus, and run through the day’s always hectic schedule, I can’t help think that I am missing the boat here.

With the rise of social media and the constantly changing technology used in the advertising and communications fields, my employer has asked me to go back to school so that I can help their rapidly expanding digital advertising department reach more clients. To do that successfully, I will certainly need to update my skills in a short amount of time.

Not to mention that a better paying job would finally allow my husband and I to start saving money for our kids’ college educations in the not too distant future.

Maybe the right time to go back to school is finally here. The kids are old enough to do homework on their own and I can even join them while we all study together. I know that my husband would be very supportive of me attending classes again.

The trouble is I just don’t know where to start. I’d love to finally earn my Bachelor’s degree, but I think I need to ease back into the classroom and take some brush-up classes first. Plus, I have PTO, book club, and other family-related activities that I want to make sure I can still do.

Wherever I decide to go, I will need help along the way with time management, technology, study skills, and job hunting.

Later that evening as I sit in the crowd at my son’s junior high basketball game, I hear two other parents discussing the scholarship their eldest child received to attend Community College of Beaver County. Maybe there’s place for me there, too.

A place where I can get started and supported all at the same time – that just might be where the road to my family’s future starts. . . . .

Jessica

A Day in the Life: JESSICA

I can hear her muffled cries over the baby monitor and know that my one-year old daughter, Chloe, has just woken up from her afternoon nap. I hastily toss the Child Psychology textbook I was highlighting aside and rush down the steps to her crib.

Trying to fit study time into each day certainly is proving challenging.

I get up at 6 a.m. every morning, unless my daughter wakes up earlier. I try to find time to sit and have a cup of coffee, but usually, I chug a lukewarm cup while getting myself and my daughter bathed, fed and dressed for the day ahead. I either work or have school every day. In fact, today I have an 8 a.m. class. After getting ready, I load up the diaper bag and head to my daughter’s daycare. After dropping her off, I go straight to campus since I usually have lots of last minute tasks to accomplish before class even starts. Today, for example, I have a paper to print out since we don’t have a computer at home right now.

Between classes, I try to find time to do a little studying since it is really hard to concentrate and focus once I get home. Looking after a toddler saps all my attention and energy. Right now, I live with my boyfriend in a small apartment in a less than desirable part of town.

At the age of 19, this is just not how I pictured my life.

I wish I could get more involved in activities at CCBC, but right now I don’t have time as I try to balance, work, school, and childcare. My boyfriend currently works two part-time jobs while I work one part-time job and attend CCBC in hopes of becoming a teacher one day. With our crazy schedules, we don’t get to spend much time together as a couple, but we know that we have responsibilities that have to be taken care of now. No more weekend parties or late night dates. Thankfully, public assistance helps us make ends meet.

Today was the day I was finally going to get some quiet study time by spending a few hours in the library before picking Chloe up. But, all that changed when my boss called to say that one of the other waitresses was sick and he needed me to come in for the dinner rush.

 

That means making arrangements to have someone get Chloe at daycare for me, and of course, sacrificing my already limited study time. With a deep sigh of regret and frustration, I toss my books in the back of my car and head off to work. Today is a busy day, and waitressing is tiring stuff. I can’t imagine doing this for the rest of my life! After work, I drive home, cook dinner, toss laundry in the washing machine, and spend a few precious hours with my beautiful daughter. After I put her to bed, I finally cram in some study time before dropping into bed exhausted.

As I said, this isn’t exactly how I thought my life would turn out after high school graduation, but I know it is going to get better. I am determined to do well at CCBC now that I am here. My daughter is the most important thing in my life and I want to make sure she gets everything that she deserves. A college degree and a career in teaching will give me that opportunity.

If I can just keep it all together, I will find that the road to my future has started here. .  .  .

Mary

A Day in the Life: MARY

I was sitting along at my kitchen table idly flipping through the “Help Wanted” ads in the Beaver County Times over my morning cup of coffee. Feeling at loose ends, I looked around my empty house, once bustling with the activity of early morning routines.

You, see, I am divorced with two young adult children. My days were once filled with shopping trips, school projects, meal preparations, family outings, and household chores. Now, my children are pursuing their own dreams. With a son in law school and a daughter opening up a clothing boutique in the city, I am starting to realize that I want, and need, my own plan for the future.

Putting my coffee cup in the sink, I dress and prepare for my day. I have a few errands to run and then I need to stop by my church to put in a few hours volunteering at our annual rummage sale. After that, I am heading to work at my part-time job as a sales associate at the cosmetics counter at Macy’s. Trust me. It’s not as exciting and glamorous as it sounds.

Truly on my own for the first time at the age of 50, I know at some point I will need more money and more security than what my current, non-career path job can give me.

On my way home from work, I impulsively drive past Community College of Beaver County, and pull into the parking lot. Turning off the car’s engine, I sit nervously for a few minutes debating my next move.

I had always wanted a career in healthcare. Was now finally the time? Was I finally ready to pursue the dream deferred while I devoted myself to being a wife and mother?

I am excited to take “my turn” after first taking care of my home and my children. But, as I step out of the car and approach the Student Services Center, I am anxious, too, and the nerves and the fear quickly take over.

High school was so long ago. Scary thoughts of test taking, exam preparation, and research paper writing race through my brain.

Can I do this and be successful? Will I find others in the classroom and the cafeteria like me? Can I really go to college now, at my age?

A sense of determination triumphs over the fear; however, and I tentatively take a seat across from the admissions representative.

“I want to be a nurse”, I declare with a sense of confidence that I didn’t know I possessed until now.

Back at home later that night, before turning off the light and heading to bed, I glance over at the registration and course information sitting in the glossy CCBC folder on my computer desk.

It’s official.

I am on the road to my future . . . .

Michael

A Day in the Life: MICHAEL 

It’s 7 a.m. and my alarm is buzzing loudly in my ear. I sit up in bed, and as my eyes adjust to the dimly lit room, I forget for a moment exactly where I am.

Oh, yeah. Now I remember. I am at home in my parents’ house, back in my old bedroom, and surrounded by all of my old things. Talk about déjà vu!

Some days I still can’t believe this happened. I did everything right, or at least I thought I did. I graduated from high school with honors, applied to and was accepted at the University of Pittsburgh, and landed an entry-level, but well-paying office job at a high tech firm in the city. I was on my way!

Now, less than two years later, here I am. Back in Beaver County and back to living with mom and dad. I am unable to pay off my student debt let alone afford my own place after losing my job in the recession.

But, being unemployed sucks, and living with my parents sucks even more, so this past fall I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and do something to change my current circumstances.

Over a beer at the local bar an old buddy of mine from high school had recently told me about the positive experience he had attending CCBC where he was able to get fast-track training with employable skills at a cost he good afford. It sounded like a great deal to me. After all, what did I have to lose?

A few days later, I stopped by CCBC’s admissions office to pick up information on their certificate programs. I enrolled shortly thereafter in the Robotics and Embedded Systems program.

Realizing I am stalling as I relive the events of the past few months, I jump out of bed, hastily dress in sweats (a far cry from my former business casual wardrobe) and grab coffee and a bagel from my mom on the way out the door. Once in the car, I crank the radio to my favorite rock station and head to campus.

I walk to my first class of the day, “Electronics I”, and marvel again at how much my life has changed in just a short period of time.

I am enjoying my coursework and my instructors. But, at the same time, I worry that once again my efforts will not pay off. That all I will be left with after graduation day is a piece of paper, a pat on the back, and a negative balance in my bank account.

What kind of guarantees do I really have? What kind of help can this college provide for me beyond the classroom to ensure that I find success and a job that lasts this time around? I don’t want to have to go through this ever again.

Still, learning how to build robots beats game night with mom and dad any day of the week.

I have to keep trying.

I have to find the road to my future. . .

 

Tyler

A Day in the Life: TYLER

I want a lot of things out of life. In fact, I’ve got a wish list that’s a mile long at this point, and it includes more money for the things I want to do, my own place so that I can move out of my parents’ house, and a new car to replace the clunker I currently drive.

And, I’m just getting started.

Needless to say that my 30-hour per week minimum wage job is not going to get me what I want or what I need for that matter.

Other than that though, my life is pretty sweet. Mom does my laundry and feeds me well. (Her homemade meatloaf is awesome by the way!) Dad keeps my gas tank filled and my cell phone bill paid. My girlfriend and friends are the best around.

But, like I said, I want more, and as I roll out of bed and throw on a hoodie and jeans, I begin to realize that high school is officially over and it’s time to take the next step. It’s time to grow-up, I guess.

When I come downstairs, mom has breakfast waiting for me. I slump down in my chair, turn on my cell phone, and start playing an intense game of Angry Birds.

Then, something catches my eye. Next to my plate of waffles is a brochure with information on college majors and what looks to me like and admissions application for our local community college.

Throughout high school, I was an average student, but really loved science and art. Undecided about my future direction, I put off enrolling in college right away.

Lesson learned. I now know that I need to further my education in order to get what I want out of life. I am just still unsure of what I want to do and what I want to be.

As a family, we have already discussed the fact that Mom and Dad can’t afford to fit the bill for my entire education so it looks like I will be starting out a community college after all, and then transferring to a four-year college or university to complete my degree. I am hoping that along the way, I can figure out exactly what kind of career I want to have.

The next day, after dropping my girlfriend off at the mall, I stop by Community College of Beaver County to learn more about science-related career paths as well as scholarship and financial aid information, and transfer options. Leaving the admissions office, I feel excited and motivated to accomplish my goals.

Maybe I will find my way. Maybe I will get everything I want some day.

After all, I am just beginning down the road to my future. . . .