Earning a degree and becoming a teacher was always a dream in the back of Joyce Turner’s mind. While she attended some college following high school, after a few semesters, Joyce was forced to push pause on her studies due to financial constraints. With young kids at home, she instead jumped into the workforce, landing a steady job in collections and, later, property management.

It wasn’t until Joyce was in her sixties when she realized that, after caring for the loved ones in her life for so many years, it was time to do something for herself. With her grandkids now entering adulthood, Joyce had more time to complete the degree she’d put on hold for the last 40 years. She took the plunge in 2017 and enrolled in child development courses at Olive-Harvey College – a campus located just minutes from her home in Calumet Heights and one that she knew would be affordable.

Over the next two years, Joyce fully immersed herself in her classes at Olive-Harvey and the extracurriculars on campus. With a nudge from her professors, who Joyce credits with keeping her motivated to learn and succeed, she joined the Child Development Club, later becoming the club’s president and receiving recognition as the most active member of student government.

After receiving her associate’s degree in Child Development: Pre-School Education in January 2019, Joyce applied for a program at National Louis University that was recommended by her professors and would allow her to obtain her bachelor’s in 18 months. She started classes in September 2019 alongside classmates from all backgrounds and of all ages.

When the COVID-19 pandemic upended in-person education in March 2020, Joyce questioned whether she could manage the technology requirements associated with virtual learning, and she was struggling to complete a difficult math course that was needed to earn her degree. But a phone call with her former Olive-Harvey professor, who saw something in Joyce that she didn’t see in herself, gave Joyce the encouragement and motivation she needed to persevere and finish her studies. She graduated from National Louis University in December 2020 and is now looking into pursuing a master’s degree in education.

With several options ahead, Joyce remains steadfast in her primary goal – to one day show her students the same level of support she continues to receive from her Olive-Harvey mentors.

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