Pamela Lacey had never taken an online class before this spring. And then in mid-March, her full-time CCV course load moved online.

“At first it was really a challenge,” she said of juggling a different learning style, working from home, and homeschooling four children between the ages of 6 and 13. “[I wasn’t] just stressed about my school, but them too…it’s really difficult. I have to set a work space and also do my schoolwork with the kids. It’s difficult because they also have needs. It was crazy, it was really stressful.” But through the weeks, she’s found a way to make it work. She set up a home office and got into a routine. “I just try to organize my time. I think the key of everything is organization.”

Lacey is no stranger to managing stress. She’s a single mother, a full-time student at CCV-St. Albans, and she works full-time as an outreach coordinator at PathStone Corporation, a non-profit human services agency that supports local farmworkers. She’s been taking classes at CCV off and on since 2017, and she’s now more than halfway to an associate degree in behavioral science, which she plans to use to advance her education, and her career, in social work. “I’m working full-time, and with four children it’s really difficult,” she said. “CCV makes it easier.”

“The best thing about being a CCV student is how your instructors and your advisor work with you…it’s like a family. Everyone has your back.” And she says the diversity at CCV is a huge benefit. “It’s a big thing, going to school within a diverse community. It’s very important.”

Lacey felt that support, and that sense of community, throughout this far-from-normal spring. “When we transitioned to online I was so nervous. But I said, ‘I could do this. I got this.’ It’s a change, but it’s good because everybody is supportive.” Her advisor is constantly reaching out to see if Lacey needs anything. Her instructors are navigating the new situation alongside her. “If not for the faculty, I couldn’t be a full-time student and have a full-time job,” she said. And she’s come to see the transition to online as good practice—she’s now enrolled in an accelerated online anthropology class, which seems more manageable after completing her spring classes. “The advantage [of online] is that you work at your own pace. If you have a deadline, it’s a day, not a time. You could work in the morning, in the evening, whatever.”

With the help of her advisor, Lacey has been able to take advantage of resources at CCV that have been key to her success. Last fall, she joined the federal TRIO Student Support Services program, which provides a range of resources for eligible students; this spring, she purchased a laptop using a TRIO grant. She’s also working with a VSAC coordinator who is helping her to make connections at Champlain College, where she is considering continuing on for a bachelor’s degree.

Lacey has two children who are still in her home country of the Philippines. She says she works so hard in order to support them, in hopes of bringing them to Vermont someday soon. One way to do that is to continue with her education. “It’s better to have a degree,” she said, especially in the field of social work, and “especially right now.” So she keeps going, despite her fatigue. “At times when I’m so tired, I always remember that I need all of my kids together. That motivates me every day. I’m not going to give up. So I always strive hard. If I fail, I fail them.”

Despite her many competing responsibilities, and despite the disruptions caused by COVID-19, Lacey has managed to maintain a high GPA at CCV. Her dream of finally being able to bring her family together keeps her motivated. As a single mom, she’s also naturally inclined toward self-sufficiency. “I also want to have a degree so I can be financially independent,” she said. “Being a mother is the best experience in life, but it’s different being financially independent because it empowers you. I feel empowered now.”

Lacey is putting that power to good use. “One thing I realize in life: there’s no barriers to your dreams. I’m gonna be 45 this year. There’s no age limit. Everyone has their own time to shine—if you really want to realize your dream, go for it. The only one that stops you is you, in my experience. I don’t give excuses.”

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