Betty Jean’s College Christmas Present to Herself

Betty Jean BaxterPlenty can happen in 34 years, especially if you’re willing to work to make it happen. 47-year-old Betty Jean Baxter of Gallatin says that the key is to keep going.

“I got pregnant in the sixth grade,” she said. “I had the baby in the seventh grade. I was trying to go to school and take care of my baby. And then I had another baby.”

Flash forward to today: “I graduate from Vol State in December. My birthday is January first. This is my Christmas and birthday present to myself!”

The road to that college degree has not been easy. “I worked on the GED (high school equivalency) for twenty-some years. I just kept at it. I was doing school and trying to work and take care of the kids.” When asked how she found the strength to raise three children, work full-time and attend classes, Baxter gives a big smile. “My husband. I got married in 2005 and my husband pushed me and would not let me give up.”

Baxter finally passed the GED test in 2008. The hard work was not over. She made the decision to attend Volunteer State Community College. “My first semester I failed English. I went back in the summer and I got a B. I’ve learned to stay on a certain course. If you want to get something done, you have to stay at it.”

The TRIO Student Support Services program at Vol State has helped her on the path, offering tutoring and other academic assistance. She is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in Accounting.

“I hate numbers. But my husband is a carpenter, so instead of getting someone else to do his books, I can do it.” A business degree has other benefits. “I’ve always wanted to own my own beauty shop. I’ve learned to manage money and operate a business. I know how to keep books; everything I think I will need.”

She says that another reason to attend college is to show her daughters how important education can be. “I knew that to set a good example for my children, they needed to see me pushing to make my life better.”

Her oldest daughter, Aquilla Cook, plans to attend Vol State this spring. Baxter hopes her youngest daughter, Ashanti Jackson, will also be attending soon. Jackson needs just a few more classes to get her degree. Baxter’s advice to other adults who may be dreaming of a college degree is simple.

“Life is not easy at all. In order to make a good life for you and your family, you are going to have to keep pushing. There may be a point where you want to quit. Just keep going. You might have to slow down. Just keep pushing.”

Betty Jean Baxter will graduate from Vol State as the proud mother of three children and grandmother to 13 grandchildren. Her college career is not ending in December. She will keep pushing. She plans to attend Trevecca Nazarene University next fall.

Spring classes at Vol State start on January 16. For information visit www.volstate.edu