YUWO scholarship winners discuss challenges and rewards of returning to the classroom

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Kelly Fusco (left) and Lynette Holloway returned to college to get a degree with financial help from the Yale University Women's Organization Scholarship.

Two Yale staff members, Kelly Fusco and Lynette Holloway, recently earned college degrees after decades-long interruptions in their education, thanks to the Yale University Women’s Organization (YUWO) Scholarship.

While they work in very different departments in the University — Fusco in the Office of Animal Research Support and Holloway in Yale Mail Service — they both were enthusiastic about what this return to the classroom meant to them and how it’s changed their life.

In January, just days after she completed her course to become a medical biller and coder, Holloway acknowledged that it hadn’t been easy, and she was surprised at how “elated” she felt at her graduation.

Her course required a160-hour internship. She drove the 30-mile round trip to the Visiting Nurse Association in Guilford, using vacation time to leave work early and even working on Sundays at times. “Wherever I went, my books went with me. My books lived in my trunk,” she said.

For Fusco, whose Yale position often can require more than 40 hours a week, finding the time for school was also a challenge. But the harder challenge might have been finding the self-confidence, she said. When she returned to school, she felt “nervous” in the same way that she had 20 years ago as a freshman at Southern Connecticut State University. Sometimes her fellow students would say “my mom says that, too,” and she would realize anew that her classmates were closer to her children’s ages than to hers.

Both Holloway and Fusco were in blended programs, meaning that they took online and classroom courses. Fusco said she knew that some classes called for a classroom setting. Being a trainer herself, she gravitates to an “active classroom.”

Before returning to school, Holloway had often taken computer classes at Yale through Human Resources, and her program required that she be computer literate to master electronic health records. She acknowledged that online courses are harder than those with a classroom setting, but said she learned to “keep with it” and “stay on it.”

Now that Fusco has completed her associate’s degree, she is looking forward to a bachelor’s degree and beyond. She said she is particularly pleased about having been able to leverage her certification in Institutional Animal Care and Use Administration — which she earned as part of her work — for college credit.

For her part, Holloway tells her grandchildren to take advantage of the relative freedom of being young to get their schooling. But for her, she says, “This is my time. … There’s more I want to do.”

Asked if she had advice for those thinking of returning to school, Fusco said, “You’ll have to earn the confidence back, but that’s a short part of the journey. Then the journey is wide open.”

YUWO Scholarships are not only open to women working at Yale. Women can also qualify as applicants through their own or an immediate family member’s association with Yale, past or present, if their education has been interrupted or delayed. The applications for the upcoming school year are due March 1. Those interested in applying can click on http://campuspress.yale.edu/yuwo/scholarships

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