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Adult Students Returning to College Find A Community and Resources to Recareer/Upgrade Their Skills


From Cybersecurity to Early Childhood, returning adults are choosing to pursue their degrees and certificates. Meet a few of our returning adult students and learn about their individual paths that led them to SUNY Schenectady.

Their messages to other returning adults: 

"I would definitely tell someone that if you want to try something different and learn something new or expand your mind and your creativity, then go back to school."

"It can be daunting especially when you feel settled and you have a family and other responsibilities, but it can be motivating to get back in there and learn."

"Don’t be afraid to start. It’s definitely eventually worth it."

Louis Trofort seated at desk, working on computer in Learning Commons

When Louis Trofort first attended college shortly after graduating from high school, he was just gearing up for his second semester to improve his grades when his father fell ill and he needed to stop attending college to take over his father’s business. Fast forward a few decades later, Louis has had rewarding careers in education and security. A gifted computer programmer, now Louis is majoring in Computer Networking Systems & Cybersecurity as he looks toward recareering and entering the Cybersecurity field.

Why did you start attending SUNY Schenectady?

My wife had taken some classes here. I used to pick her up. Once in a while I would go into the classroom and the professor seemed so nice and easy going. So I was familiar with coming to the College. I don’t work too far away. I saw the different programs offered and saw Cybersecurity. I’m looking for a career change and thought, ‘Let me give it a shot.’ It’s a career that’s in high demand.

When do you plan to graduate?

I’m going part time now while working, so I expect to be done in 2024.

How have your classes been?

Online classes have been a little challenging, especially when it comes to submitting my assignments, but I’m taking a class on campus now. It’s so interesting when I see someone around my age in the hallways or in class. That’s pretty cool.

Have you used any support services?

My English class was pretty intense so I would go to the tutors in the Learning Commons often.

Why did you choose to pursue the Cybersecurity field?

In my last year of high school I learned that I was a very good programmer. When I did try to go to college when I was younger, I wasn’t focused at all. I didn’t use my time well and I had to drop out. I know from experience that I can understand computer language and how the systems work once I really apply myself.

I also have years of security background. Along with my security background and the ability to understand computers and programming, I figured it’s a good fit. It will be good to combine the two and pick up where I dropped the ball when I was younger.

I will be able to do cybersecurity from home/freelance or work for someone or do both. It has lots of room for maneuvering around. It’s a job that does not require that much physical effort so it’s something I can do as I get older. And it’s constantly evolving, a field that’s forever changing.

What would you say to other returning adult students who are thinking about going back to school?

I would say that it may be difficult at times especially if it’s a subject you are not too familiar with, but the sense of accomplishment once you pass the class and you’re doing OK is so great. I would definitely tell someone that if you want to try something different and learn something new or expand your mind and your creativity, then go back to school.

A lot of the professors encourage us adults who return. They encourage us to keep up the good work.

Jessica Fuller and her children.

Jessica Fuller wanted to enroll in a degree program that worked with her schedule while she was working and raising her children. She had already earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and has worked in the Human Services field for about a decade, but she was interested in switching gears and working in the Chemical Dependency Counseling field. She took her classes online and graduated in May 2021. (She is pictured with her daughter Emerson, 15, and son Finn, 2.

Why you decide to start taking classes at SUNY Schenectady?

I earned my undergraduate degree in Psychology in 2008. I have a young child, so I needed a program that would fit with my schedule. I heard several recommendations from people who got the Chemical Dependency Counseling Certificate. It’s a one-year program so it’s not a huge commitment. I was looking for a change. I have been working with people with development disabilities, so I wanted to do something in mental health or the substance abuse field. It is still human services, but I know with COVID, substance abuse and mental health issues are extremely concerning right now. They always are, but it’s a field that they definitely need people to work in.

What did you like about the program?

The online courses were a major plus. The classes were small and there was a lot of professor interaction. There were always good discussions among the students. I had the same professors for multiple classes and there were a lot of the same students in the classes which was great. Another part of the appeal was being able to continue with all of the other responsibilities in my life and work school into that.

Ms. Martin was very helpful when I was applying for my CASAC. The professors are very knowledgeable about taking the education we’ve received and turning it into a career.

Why did you decide to get into Human Services and now the Substance Abuse Counseling field?

I have always liked helping people. I don’t feel fulfilled doing jobs where I don’t see a positive impact on other peoples’ lives. I like being able to help people who want to do better and make better lives for themselves. I also know there’s not enough staff in that field to facilitate the need that’s there. I would like to see more communication for people between substance abuse and mental health treatment.

What would you say to other returning adult students?

It can be daunting especially when you feel settled and you have a family and other responsibilities, but it can be motivating to get back in there and learn. I’ve always loved learning so continuing education for me is fun and fulfilling. It’s a worthy investment. If there’s something you want to do, then overcome that fear and just pursue it.

Did you use any support services here?

It was always easy for me to get to the College and utilize the spaces on campus and upload papers and go online when I needed to. As a SUNY Schenectady student, I used my College ID as a CDTA bus pass and the money I saved on the bus pass every month was life altering.

Josh Starr sitting in chair in preschool classroom.

Josh has been working as a Teaching Assistant at local preschools for the past 11 years and at Neil Hellman Preschool, part of Northern Rivers, for the past five years, working with children in special education settings. He decided to take his career to the next level by enrolling in the Early Childhood Associate Degree program at SUNY Schenectady so that he can reach his goal of becoming a teacher and then a Behavior Analyst. He works full time and takes online classes part time. Josh is also a recipient of a scholarship through the Educational Incentive Program, part of the Professional Development Program at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy (University at Albany) which covers his tuition.

Why did you decide to attend SUNY Schenectady?

I have been working in preschools for the past 11 years now and you can only rise to a certain level without a degree, so I wanted to try to achieve a degree now.

Did you attend college before SUNY Schenectady?

I attended a few other colleges. I was too young and didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Now I have a clearer idea and more motivation as well.

What do you love about working in education?

I feel useful. I feel like I have a certain skill when it comes to teaching and helping kids. I don’t take myself too seriously. This matches my personality and I do enjoy it. It feels good to see the progress that the kids make and when the parents tell you how happy they are.

What do you like about SUNY Schenectady?

Everyone has been really friendly and very helpful. Everyone’s made me feel very welcome. It’s been nice for easing myself back into going to school. The professors, advisors, and student success coaches have helped me get my best foot forward and get it done. Everyone’s right there with me, working hard, that’s all I can really ask for.

What is your career goal?

I want to move on to the College of Saint Rose to finish my education. I want to be a board certified Behavior Analyst. After getting my bachelor’s degree in Special Education and my master’s degree, I would like to teach for a certain number of years, then apply for that program. It’s a position where you analyze children with extreme behaviors and work on a plan that assists them.

What would you say to other returning adult students who might want to attend college?

Don’t be afraid to start. It’s definitely eventually worth it. It seems hard and impossible, but you just have to get started and then it’s fine.

What do you enjoy about working with kids?

Kids don’t have biases. It’s nice to be around because it keeps me young. It feels different working at a school and working with kids. It’s a nice feeling. I feel like I’ve done something for someone else. It’s good for my peace of mind. I know when I go home I did something good today for someone.