Sharper with the wisdom of years and new education

From kindergarten through 12th grade, a high school graduate has attended school about 2,340 days. If he is 18-years-old, he has only had 6,574 days on earth so far.

While a student now in college may be anxious to get out in the world after sitting in class 36.6 percent of his total days, some have seen the other side and come back.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 38 percent of all college students are 25-years-old or older – grown-ups back in the world of teachers, books and possible dirty looks.

Getting Informed

Other than the news, Frank Nardozza does not watch television shows. After his four year-old son and almost six year-old daughter are in bed, he pulls out his homework.

“Sometimes it’s easy to say I don’t need this, because I have a good job, a good career – what am I going to gain besides a piece of paper?” Nardozza said.

The student, father, and associate director of Access Technology had a job and a degree when he decided to replace a 75 mile commute with classes.

Working in New York City at age 24, Nardozza had applied to New York University (NYU) when his father fell sick with lung cancer.

Pushing thoughts of college to the back of his mind, he left the city. After his father passed on, Nardozza helped care for his 16 year-old brother and maintain the family home in northern New Jersey.

“At that point, the opportunity to go back (to school) was not an option,” he said.

Before that, he had received his associate’s degree from the Metropolitan Technical Institute (MTI) in New Jersey. Anxious to enter the workforce, he decided not to pursue his bachelor’s degree, which required completion of his general education requirements.

In his 30s, he had a successful career at Panasonic in Secaucus. Since his wife worked in Philadelphia, they bought a house in central New Jersey, the midpoint between their two offices.

“After we had my son, I knew I needed a job that was closer,” he said. “I needed to rethink life.”

Now, like many college students, he laughs when asked when he will graduate. He takes about one course a semester, managing his time carefully by scheduling three hours per night to study.

“You have a different appreciation for taking classes when you’re older,” he said. “I learn a lot … it’s more than just passing and getting credits. It’s about learning something new that I can apply to life, to my job.”

Communicating, Accomplishing

Barbara Basedow, mother of three college graduates and one high school student, completed the communication studies major in one year. She will don her cap and gown this May.

The energetic woman, back in college full time after 30 years, wears “mom,” “student” and “friend” hats, often all in the same day.

As a 19-year-old City University of New York (CUNY) student, the New York City native left college to marry. For two commuter public college students, the only way they could afford to be together was for one to withdraw from school. Basedow planned to work toward her degree after her husband finished his.

Three years later, their first son was born. While raising a family, Basedow took classes sporadically, juggling them with a full-time job at AT&T and then, for eight years, her own party store business.

After raising four sons, she transferred credits from 30 years ago to the College’s interactive multimedia program.

While she formerly never stayed up past midnight, Basedow said she now regularly pulls all-nighters.

“While I thought skimming through a chapter would be sufficient, I learned it wasn’t good enough to ensure a good test grade,” she wrote in an essay. “Procrastination with two assignments due the same day was not a good thing either, and no matter how I tried, statistics would require the help of a tutor.”

After doing the math, the statistics class helped her to decide interactive multimedia was not the best major for her.

“I used process of elimination,” she said. “When I eliminated everything else I had done in my life, it was all tied together with the communication theory.”

The College awarded her credit for two previous communication courses. Still, for two semesters, she took 20 credits of communication courses to fill the 10 remaining core courses.

“I came in not really knowing what I wanted my degree in,” she said. “It was just a personal triumph thing for me.”

Seeking Knowledge, Creativity

On the same day as her University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) 25 year reunion and same year as her son’s high school graduation, 47-year-old Terri Epstein is graduating from the College with a second bachelor’s degree.

Epstein, who has a published book and a BA in literature from UPenn, took classes in small doses for seven and a half years to juggle them with running a household.

“I began the journey with the understanding that my children would come first … so it would take time,” Epstein wrote in an e-mail message.

Her children were 10-years-old and 8-years-old when she went back to school. Her daughter, Hannah, is now a high school freshman. Her 17-year-old son Harrison, who will attend Babson College in Massachusetts in the fall, helps run errands.

In class, being close in age as professors gave her confidence to fill silences with questions and challenge professors’ critiques, but not at the expense of camaraderie with the other students.

“Sometimes I’m the ‘mother hen’ who watches out for their best interests, speaks up on their behalf, listens to problems, or provides the Dunkin’ Donuts,” she wrote. “Just as often they’re the ones helping me with a problem on a project, bringing me a cup of coffee or providing a pat on the back and boost of encouragement …”

In between schooling, Epstein worked as an editor at Philadelphia magazine, a special events coordinator for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and a freelance writer. She and sister-in-law Judith Epstein Gage started their own small business in the licensing industry.

In 1994, she and Gage wrote “The Cat Hall of Fame: Imaginary Portraits and Profiles of the World’s Most Famous Felines,” a 96 page book with artistic depictions of famous historical personalities as cats.

With an introduction about the founding of the New York City Cat Hall of Fame and biographies of the characters, the book was featured on “Life with Regis & Kathie Lee” and in People magazine. After designing promotional material to market the work, Epstein decided to go back to school for graphic design.

“I’m not in school because it’s what you do after high school, or because my parents have sent me off to college,” she wrote. “I’m not searching or trying to figure things out. At 47, I’ve done all that already … that’s what landed me at (the College) in the art program.”