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Capable of Anything

by FIU Online

Nov 06, 2019, 9:00 AM.

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When Shamera Ellis walked the stage to receive her diploma in May 2019, it was the latest step in a long journey toward her bachelor’s degree.

Her journey began soon after Ellis graduated high school more than a decade ago. She’d attended a few college classes, then stopped to work, only to start up again.

“It was a lot of stop and go,” Ellis recalled.

Then, in 2015, she toured Florida International University with her husband and young son, and decided it was time to return for good.

Ellis was working full-time with State Farm Insurance and commuting from her home in Fort Lauderdale to FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique Campus in West Miami-Dade County. It was a 45-minute drive “on a good day,” she said—but she was committed.

That commitment was tested two years later with the arrival of twins in May 2017. With her husband also pursuing his undergraduate degree and headed for law school, Ellis homeschooling their oldest child, and with no family to lean on for child care, Ellis had to make a choice.

Ellis did her research and found that her bachelor’s program in information technology was also available fully online with FIU. She was set. She quit work – but not school – to stay home, raise her growing family, and continue her studies in IT. 

Life was not easy. After the twins’ arrival, Ellis suffered from postpartum depression. To distract herself, she would open her laptop and dive into her studies.

“That online option was beneficial to my mental health,” she said. “Homework gave me a sense of control. Even when I didn’t have control over anything else, I could complete an assignment or get an A. It put me in a good mental state.”

As her depression subsided, Ellis still was a student-mother. Children would wake up sick, or not sleep at all. At this point, driving to traditional on-campus classes would have been next to impossible, she admitted. Online classes were a practical solution.

Early into her final semester, Ellis and her husband, Nikola Lajic, learned they were expecting their fourth child. Being an online student, Ellis could care for her children and make her doctor visits without disrupting her studies.

Ellis was five months pregnant when she attended commencement and received her diploma in May.

Currently a stay-at-home mom, Ellis has put her education to use. She’s taken on small web development projects, with plans to return to the workforce full-time in the new year.

Given her experience, Ellis sees herself as a role model to other parents thinking about going back to school.

“I know it’s hard with kids, trying to go to school and having an assignment that’s due,” she said. “But anything is possible. It’s about making a plan and following that plan. FIU definitely helped prepare me.”

Her sentiment was best captured in a recent post Ellis made to Instagram: “If you guys knew the tears, the sleepless nights with having twins, trying to get assignments done, making sure my oldest still got the love and attention he deserves, studying for tests to reach this point. My mind was made up…and quitting was just not an option. The mind is a beautiful, powerful thing. When you truly come to the understanding that YOU are capable of anything you set your mind to, there are no limits to your success.”

Ellis is hoping to pursue her master's in IT with FIU Online starting next summer or fall, she said.