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Having the Will and Finding a Way

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Jun 17, 2019, 9:00 AM.

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Allison Overstreet was 18 and recently out of high school with an infant son. While her grade-school friends were headed off to college, higher education would prove elusive for the young mother – until she discovered FIU Online.

She knew a college degree could provide them a more secure future. Over the next decade, however, Elijah was her focus. She wasn’t alone. “Only 2% of teen moms actually get a bachelor’s degree,” she said, “I always told myself that despite the odds being against me, I would never become a statistic.”

Life Struggles

Allison was committed to defying the stats and earning a degree. But every time she’d enroll in classes at her local community college, life got in the way. She worked seven days a week to make ends meet. Health issues took up the majority of her time. She found herself having to choose between work and classes.

“I had to drop out because I was constantly missing classes,” she recalled.

Eventually, in 2014, Allison broke the on-again, off-again cycle. She found a hybrid, online in-class program at a local state college, earned her associate’s degree and graduated on the dean’s list.

She knew her next goal—a bachelor’s degree in psychology—could prove to be a similar struggle. Between the course load and homework, the demands of three jobs, Elijah’s pre-teen needs, and recurring health issues, Allison suspected she would be forced again to make a choice. However, in fall 2017, she discovered and enrolled in Florida International University’s undergraduate psychology program, fully online.

Seamless Transition

Once enrolled, she found online professors who were engaged, helpful, and “very attuned to the needs of their students,” she stated. FIU Online provided Allison the access she needed to be able to attend FIU while living in West Palm Beach. She would wake early or stay up late to complete homework or study for exams without personal or work-related conflicts.

“Working those jobs and trying to be a good parent, I found that FIU Online worked really great with my schedule,” she said.

Allison, now 31, expects to graduate in the summer of 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. A 3.7 GPA helped her earn grants and scholarships along the way—and a spot again on the dean’s list, as well as recognition from the National Society for Leadership and Success.

Moving Forward

Currently, Allison is applying to online master’s degree programs in public administration and is optimistic she’ll be offered a scholarship.

She is now a mentor to teenage girls and uses her own story as a model. She wants to eventually work in teen advocacy and victim’s rights programs to help young girls realize teenage motherhood needn’t keep them from fulfilling their dreams.

“No matter what obstacles or odds are against you, I tell them, find a way to make it happen,” she said. “That’s what I did.”