Zoe Heyward's story is like that of so many of her Weekend College classmates. She was ready for a career change but between working full time and life responsibilities, college wasn't an option. Onondaga Community College's Weekend College made it possible. "This was something I always wanted to do. For years I had talked to my friends and sisters about it. The experience of returning to school was wonderful. It was stressful and a blessing all in one."
On Wednesday night in Storer Auditorium, Heyward and 22 of her Weekend College classmates took a huge step toward their new careers when they received their degrees during the annual December commencement ceremony. They were all members of the first group of Weekend College students who started taking classes together in August 2018. "It was a great experience. We all really bonded. And the professors were wonderful and very supportive."
OCC launched Weekend College to provide people with demanding life schedules the opportunity to work toward a degree while taking classes on Friday nights and Saturday's. Weekend College degree programs include Alcohol & Substance Abuse Counseling, Business Administration, Criminal Justice, and Early Childhood.
Heyward received her degree in Alcohol & Substance Abuse Counseling. The 55-year-old mother of three and grandmother of seven dealt with many challenges early in life. "I had my children young and went through a period of trying to find myself. I stumbled down some wrong roads but realized my kids deserved better and I deserved better."
After more than 30 years working in the health care industry as a Licensed Practical Nurse, Heyward suffered a back injury and decided it was time to go to college. While taking classes she continued to work privately. "I thought Weekend College would fit my life and I was so right. I was able to take care of my clients and work toward my degree."
Heyward plans to pursue a bachelor's degree at SUNY Empire. The lifelong Syracuse resident wants to use her education to assist those in need. "My goal is to help combat the homeless situation. We have so many people drug addicted with mental health issues who are homeless. I want to help overcome that. It's always been a goal of mine."