Heather Dugan, Springs’ director of payroll, says that her continuing education journey was “15 years in the making.” She graduated high school in 2004 and was not fond of academics, so she opted not to pursue higher education.
When she joined the Springs staff in 2007 she believed she should earn a college degree, “but spent 10 years making excuses as to why I couldn’t do it. I was too busy, I wasn’t smart enough, I couldn’t afford it, and so on.”
While attending an Ignite event, she came to believe that earning a degree was a possibility. In 2019, she resolved to return to school, and recalled, “I was nervous and anxious about it but knew that the reason I was doing it was for no one else but myself, and that gave me the courage.”
She planned to complete general education classes at a community college to make her education as cost-effective as possible. She filled out an FAFSA form (student aid application) and applied to several Southern California community colleges. To her surprise, Mt. San Jacinto College (MSJC) offered her a California College Promise Grant, which allowed her to start classes with no out-of-pocket expenses for tuition: “just another one of my excuses completely knocked out of the way since it wasn’t going to cost me anything!”
She met with a MSJC counselor to arrange classes; her full-time work schedule allowed her only to take two classes a semester “so as to not be overwhelmed and give myself any excuse to quit.”
Each year, she completed an FAFSA form, and each year MSJC offered her the California College Promise Grant. Heather continued, “I was able to obtain my degrees with little cost investment since all of my tuition was covered I was only responsible for books and some small fees from the college each semester!”
She spent four years working towards completing an associate’s degree, and graduated with distinction (GPA of 3.5-4.0) and an honors student, part of Phi Theta Kappa, in May of 2023 with two degrees: Associate in Science-Business Administration and Associate in Arts-Liberal Arts-Business & Technology.
Heather remarked, “On graduation day I felt I had accomplished something I would have never imagined I would have been capable of doing. I encourage anyone who thinks they don’t have the time, resources, or smarts to go back to school. You can do it!”
She continued, “It only requires taking the first step to make it happen. It may have taken me longer than others, but going back to school while working full-time is not for the faint of heart. It wasn’t always easy, but I’m proud to say I stuck it out and it paid off!”
“If you are reading this and struggling with whether or not you should go back (or just start) your educational journey, I am a success story who was full of every excuse in the book as to why I couldn’t do it. But I did it! I also somehow managed in those four years to get married, become a stepmom, and graduate while I was six months pregnant. So you DO have the time, you just have to MAKE the time and take that first step!”
If you are a Springs employee who wishes to return to college to earn a degree, Annette Butler can offer you information on opportunities that can help. Email her at Annette.email@example.com.