Frances Perez-Nunn has an amazing drive to better herself through higher education. She's a student at Onondaga Community College who commutes three days a week from Albany. That's 150 miles each way! Why does she make the 2-and-a-half hour drive twice a day? "There are plenty of other community colleges between here and there, but none offer an ASL (American Sign Language) program like OCC does."
Perez-Nunn is a 38-year-old married mother of three who spent much of her adult life searching for her professional passion. She worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant for a decade, then shifted to Home Care. Eventually she decided she wanted to work with kids at her children's school. She spent two-and-a-half years in a behavioral classroom, then switched to intensive care students. "They were teaching non-verbal students sign and realized 'that's what I want to do. I want to help students who are either deaf or non-verbal find a way to communicate!'"
She began researching schools that offer American Sign Language, found OCC on the internet, and came to Open House in the spring of 2021. "I met some of the teachers and knew right away this is where I wanted to be. Everyone was so accommodating I felt comfortable right away."
Perez-Nunn began taking classes here in the fall of 2021, and the good vibes she felt at Open House about the ASL program continued and have never stopped. "I love my ASL Professors... Miss Jenny (Sabo) as well as Miss (Kelly) Kaminski. And working with Miss Rebecca (Dadey) has been one of the best experiences because ASL is her native language."
During her first two semesters Perez-Nunn commuted four days a week. This semester she's arranged her schedule so she is here "just" three days a week. But there's still that lengthy commute and all that comes with it. She estimates she's spending $200 to $250 a week in gas, and a similar amount in Thruway tolls. And on a school day, she's spending 5 hours behind the steering wheel. How does she stay alert? "In the morning I'm wide awake. Sometimes I listen to audio books. If I'm a little tired, I have to listen to music. If I'm really tired, I call my husband and talk to him, or I get out of the car and walk for awhile."
When she gets home she has homework to do, a family to raise, and she teaches Tae Kwon Do. She credits her husband with making everything possible. "He drives an Uber on the weekends so I have gas money for the week. During the week I don't get home until 8. He makes dinner. When I'm stressed he tells me 'you've got this.' He's my rock and makes sure I take breathers because when I get stressed, nothing sinks in."
Perez-Nunn is on track to complete her degree next May. Her goal is to work in school helping students learn languages of some type. Getting there will mark the completion of a very literal and figurative journey in her life. "It's been long and stressful but I wouldn't change anything. I'm grateful to have so many wonderful people around me."