Chalea Jones can't wait for Saturday, May 15 to arrive. That's the day when she'll receive her Accounting degree from Onondaga Community College. It took her 16 years to get from her high school graduation to her college commencement. She's ready to savor the moment and set an example for her children. "I have two girls and I want them to see me walk the stage and know they can do this too."
The last time Jones "walked the stage" was June 2005 when she was leaving Corcoran High School. She was pregnant and thought she knew what was best. "I couldn't wait to get out of high school and I didn't think college was for me. I thought I could figure things out and do it on my own."
She would spend several years working a variety of jobs before coming to the realization she needed to continue her education. "I got a point to where I just wasn't happy. I didn't like the trajectory of where my career was going. As much as I tried to fight it, I hit a wall. I knew I needed to go back to school, carve out my own career path, and figure out what I wanted to do."
With two daughters at home, Jones couldn't have given college a try college without a strong support system behind her. "I was incredibly happy and blessed to have a husband who pushed me and said, 'go to school. Don't worry about working right now. Get your degree. I'll take care of everything. Let's get you to the next place.'"
Before coming to OCC in 2019 Jones had been working in the medical billing industry. She was good at math and decided she would pursue an Accounting degree. She overcame her anxiety about returning to school and did well right from the start. In 2020 she was inducted into the College's chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa.
Jones set up her two-year OCC plan so that in her final semester she would have just one class to take, giving her the flexibility to do an internship. With the help of OCC, she pursued an internship opportunity at Dermody, Burke & Brown accounting firm in Syracuse. She interviewed, thought she did well, and was told they would get back to her. The next day her phone rang. "They didn't offer me an internship. They offered me a full time job! I accepted and started in January. I couldn't believe it worked out like this!"
Five months in to her job as an Accounting Specialist, life couldn't be better for Jones and her family. Her daughters are ages 15 and 12 and they're about to watch their mom walk across the stage. "Coming to OCC was the best decision. Everything fell into place. I'm so incredibly proud of myself for what I was able to do."
Chalea Jones is our guest on this edition of our podcast, "Chatting About College." You can listen to our conversation with her by clicking on this link. You can also download and subscribe to "Chatting About College" at iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts or wherever you download podcasts from.