This interview is special to me for a couple key reasons. The first reason is that I really have a special sense of admiration for those returning back to school; especially while balancing multiple life roles. Secondly, I had the honor of seeing this individual work toward her dream first hand some years ago and have since witnessed the manifestation of her unfailing determination. I had the honor of interviewing my role model, cheerleader and…mom. 🙂
I’m really excited to share her story because she is truly an inspiration to women of multiple ages and backgrounds. Through my childhood I witnessed my mom make countless sacrifices to pursue her education. However, I will never forget one particular example that drives me to this day. When I was in high school I woke up one morning around 5am to sleepwalk myself to the bathroom, hoping to return to bed with at least one hour to spare before having to get ready for school. I saw the door to my sister’s room cracked and the light was on. I peeked in and saw my mom typing away on the computer in a small space designated as “the office”. Keep in mind she too had to start getting ready for her own full day at work. During my time in undergrad when I didn’t feel like finishing a paper, I thought of that morning I saw my mom. And in grad school when I was driving to class tired from an 8 hour work day, I pictured my mom sitting at the computer that morning.
Since those early mornings working at the computer, Toya Wright (my mom) has earned a BA degree in Healthcare Administration/Interdisciplinary Studies and a MA degree in Organizational Management. She currently works for Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), one of the lead accounting firms in the world, as a Manager for their large Consulting Services sector. Prior to working for PwC she has held positions as the Director of Patient Services for 2 major hospitals as well as various management and consulting roles.
9 To Fly Girl: Can you tell me what the timeline in receiving your degrees looked like?
Toya: (*laughs*) Well it took me about 20 years total…including breaks in between. I went to junior college at LA Trade Tech and LA City College. I graduated from LACC but while at LATTC I met my husband. I got married after I graduated and had a baby a year later. It was another 7 years before I went back for my undergrad degree. In between working full time and raising a family, I spent 5 years in undergrad. Then I was off for 3 years before grad school. Once I went back to grad school, it took 2 years to receive that degree.
You have to be patient. Don’t try to go full force. Take it at your own pace. You’ll know if you’re able to take on more. For me, toward the end [of undergrad] I was ready to graduate so I was able to build up momentum.
9TFG: What inspired you to return to school?
Toya: I knew I’d be able to advance at work having more education. With each level [degree received] I knew I needed more education to stand out with qualified applicants. Also, I wanted to earn more money so my family could benefit.
9TFG: What type of support did you have in the process?
Toya: I had a village! (*laughs*) My husband was a major supporter with me going back [to school]. He gave me emotional support and financial support. He helped out with the kids – picking them up from school, getting snacks after school, making sure homework was done and cooking dinner. But when his work hours changed I had to get a babysitter. Grandparents and neighbors were also very helpful in the process.
9TFG: What advice would you give to the mother who wants to go back to school but thinks it’s impossible because of motherhood duties, work schedule or any other obstacles?
Toya: You can do anything you put your mind to. Believe in yourself but also believe in God or your spiritual source [if other]. For me, prayer really helped.
Consult with the people you feel can support you [with the children] because you’ll need that extra time to dedicate to your school work. Especially if you’re working full time. And whatever happens, don’t give up! Once you make up your mind that this is what you want to do, stick with it.
9TFG: What types of obstacles did you face along your journey and how did you overcome them?
Toya: I was taking a couple classes at a time versus doing everything at once. My advisor told me I could graduate in 1 year if I took more classes straight through. I took her advice and took more classes leading up to graduation. When it came time for grad check I ended up being a few credits short. One of my classes ended up being credit/no credit and didn’t count.
I had just applied for a job where I would need to show proof of my Bachelor’s degree. So I had to graduate on time! I talked to several people and the very last person ended up helping move things around so I could graduate as planned.
9TFG: Oh wow!
Toya: Yes, lots of prayers with that one.
9TFG: What kept you going on days you may have doubted your decision?
Toya: I knew that I wasn’t just doing it for myself but for my family as well. I had pictures of my family on my desk to remind me of my goals and why I was doing it.
Toya: It was the determination to finish. Once you get that far you can’t go back. I was determined and had the will to accomplish my goal. I wanted to set an example for my daughters. If I could do it, they could too!
9TFG: What resources would you recommend to a mom desiring to go back to school?
Toya: Once you decide to go back, look at different schools to see what programs they offer. For some reason, I used to love looking at the schedule of classes [when they came out] each term.
9TFG: (*laughs*) Me too!!!
Toya: Yeah, that’s a motivator in itself! You get to see what days you can go to school, the classes you need to finish.
Also, apply for FAFSA to see what financial assistance you can get to help you. I read devotional and self help books during the process as well. Acts of Faith is good. And of course the Bible. I went to church every Sunday to get my fuel for the week. I listened to gospel and inspirational music.
Toya: (*laughs*) Yes. Oh, and I love the book The Secret!
9TFG: Are there any additional words of wisdom you’d like to add?
Toya: You need to have the right mindset. You have to say to yourself: “This is what I have the passion to do. Nothing or no one is going to stop me!”.
9TFG: Great advice. Especially because your mind will try to trick you into thinking otherwise.
Toya: True. And remember that it comes with sacrifice. Your lifestyle will change because you won’t have as much [leisure] time. My family couldn’t take as many vacations while I was in school. I didn’t have weekends to chill out and do nothing. But don’t get me wrong, there were some things I didn’t sacrifice. I still got my nails and hair done!
9TFG: (*laughs*) Right.
Toya: I remember times when I was on my lunch break doing homework in the car. And I admit I used the printer at work to print papers and the computer to send emails. (*laughs*)
9TFG: Well hey, that can be the reality.
Toya: Yes. I don’t encourage it but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. It all pays off in the end!
If you have any questions or comments for Toya, please feel free to comment below.