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    My mentor helps me balance education, work, and parenthood

    Erika Weaver Coleman

    As a recipient of a Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education, one of the things that I really appreciate is the fact that we are paired with a mentor to help us get through our college experience and to prepare us for entering the workforce. I had the good fortune of being paired with my mentor, Gina, when I became a Pearson Scholar in 2017. As a working mother who is going to college, it has been very helpful for me to have a mentor who is also a working mother with children in college and has had the experience of balancing education, work and life as a mother.

    Sharing experiences

    Our mentor and mentee monthly check-ins have been something that I can reflect on and see as a gauge of my progress in my college experience. Each month, I look forward to sharing what I have accomplished since the last time we spoke. During the time between check-ins I make mental notes of moments that would be good to share with my mentor. These last few semesters it has been especially helpful having a mentor who has the experience of children who are older, as I now have three teenagers in a house of four children! Gina always helps me to keep it light and positive and that this too shall pass.

    Tackling transition

    This past semester has been especially difficult for me in my college experience, and having a mentor has been a very large portion of how I somehow survived chaos and stayed on the Dean’s list. The challenge for me was in the transition from the state college where I received my Associate’s degree to the private university where I have entered my major. It was a big transition, and through it many challenges arose – but I had Gina there for me, helping me to look at things logically and to make decisions based on the available facts. She was also there for me on a personal level as I felt insanely overwhelmed with life in the moment and the transition.

    Expanding horizons

    I am grateful for the valuable experience of having someone in the wings watching me find my own path and being there for support, yet also showing me the ropes. The experience of having a mentor has also helped me to seek additional mentors in other aspects of my education, my professional development and in my personal life and for opportunities to serve as a mentor to others. As a future educator, I am excited about bringing this knowledge and experience to the students that I will serve one day, as mentorship is a critical experience that should be available to everyone.


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    From Playing School to Becoming a Teacher: One Student's Journey to Discovering Her Career Path

    Erika Weaver Coleman

    My story began long before I found myself in college as a non-traditional student. When I was growing up, one of my favorite things to do was to play teacher. My grandparents had a house that was built in 1912 in Opelika, Alabama that was the former primary school for their neighborhood. The basement of the house was the schoolhouse, and the old desks and blackboards were part of my childhood playgrounds. The money I earned money doing chores to help my grandparents was spent at the local teacher supply store. I decorated the old schoolhouse like a real school, used my dolls and stuffed animals as my pupils, and my uncle’s textbooks from Auburn University as my curriculum. I’m sure it was quite a sight to see a seven-year-old fumbling through a book of literature and calculus to teach her toys! As I grew older, I was always was drawn towards my teachers and the significance of their roles in my life.

    When I became a mother at not quite twenty-two, I embraced each moment to be able to teach my daughter about the world. I had the fortune of being able to stay home with my young children, as I was also a Navy wife. I decorated the house as a kindergarten. Books and engaging toys were in little areas of each room, and our living room became the classroom. I read as much as I could about child development and planned my days as if I were teaching a Montessori preschool. Three children and a world of life changes later, I found myself going through a very difficult divorce. I suddenly was faced with the reality that I was going to have to figure out what I was going to do to help myself and my children in the world.

    I eventually became a nurse’s assistant in elder care, which helped me balance work life with family life while providing for my family. This also helped me feel that connection to my grandparents I missed so much after they passed away. The message that I kept receiving from the residents that I cared for was about how important it was to live the life that makes you happy and that leaves something meaningful for your family and future generations. This really struck me because, even though I was very happy working with the elderly, I wasn’t feeling that satisfaction the residents always spoke of.

    I had the experience of working as a paraprofessional in a high school ESE (Exceptional Student Education) classroom two years ago, and it was the catalyst that set my world spinning towards the path to my dreams. The students impacted me in ways that I will forever carry within my heart. I had my first experience teaching a student something brand new and observing the process of understanding and their synthesis of the knowledge. In that moment, I knew that I had to go to college and finally become a teacher. I began this journey in August of 2016 and am so proud of how far I have come!

    In September 2017 I had the amazing opportunity to receive the Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education. Becoming a Pearson Scholar has added to my confidence in myself tremendously. I have been able to focus much more on my studies without as much stress about finances. As part of the scholarship, I have been matched with a mentor from Pearson, too. My Pearson Mentor has been very helpful in keeping me on track, helping me to further develop my academic and career based goals as well as helping me feel confident in my act of juggling work, school and family. My dream of becoming a teacher is coming true.