Misty Wheelock 34, Claremont
During a recent semester, Misty Wheelock finished her night shift at Voguefilm Dematics in Lebanon at 7 a.m. and stayed in the class at River Valley from 9 a.m. to noon. Then she went home to sleep for 3 1/2 hours before doing homework for at least an hour.
She was back on campus for another class from 6-8pm and then home again. “Maybe take another 45-minute nap. Then take a shower and go to work,” Willock said.
“I’ve always had a little less sleep than other people, but that’s the most I can get right now,” Willock said.
This semester, she’s only been taking one course—a tough math class—to be able to focus on doing well. This meant paying out of pocket for tuition rather than getting financial aid, as she did when she took several classes in the same semester.
The married mother of a 5-year-old son worked in retail and as an escort truck driver for a mobile home company for three years. This will be her ninth year in Fuji.
After earning her associate’s degree in biological sciences, possibly in 2025, Wheelock wants to attend the NHTI in Concord to train to become a dental hygienist.
“My goal is to try and find a job closer to home,” she said, referring to the 60-mile round trip to Fujifilm.
Amanda Greeley wanted to finish a journey she began more than two decades ago in Texas.
“I’ve always wanted to work in a medical lab,” Greeley said. “When I was 18, I started the program before I got married and had kids and it went awry, so let’s finish the program.”
This past August, she started classes in River Valley, toward a college degree as a medical lab technician, which she hopes to earn next year.
Greeley, a stay-at-home mom with four kids ages 11 to 20, attends classes full time and fits in homework when she can.
“It was a juggling act, finding time early in the morning, late at night,” she said.
She drives to campus once a week, 75 minutes each way.
“It’s kind of cute because I don’t have any kids with me,” Greeley said, laughing.
She chooses a two-year program over four years, so she can finish the program and go to work sooner.
She also plans to obtain a bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory technology.
Greeley is making a career change after working for more than five years in telephone IT support.
“It was frustrating and exhausting just helping people day in and day out and trying to help my kids and all that, and then sitting around all day too. It wasn’t good for my physical health,” she said.
It has a combination of a loan and a scholarship to help pay for classes.
“We were able to plan for it and save for it,” she said.
I welcomed the spread of ages among River Valley students.
“I don’t feel like an old lady here,” Greeley said.
“We are all here with the same goal: to graduate,” she said. “It’s not as scary as I thought.”
25, White River Junction, Vt.
Morgan Smith graduated from Plymouth State University with a degree in psychology and a minor in neuroscience in 2020. She applied to master’s programs in neuroscience but found that the pandemic had reduced the number of places available.
She worked in a veterinary practice and oncology unit at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, which she hoped would lead to career advancement.
“I learned a lot, but it didn’t do as well as I would have hoped, so I went back into the world of vet techs” and started classes at River Valley this past August.
Today, she works in a vet clinic and also waits tables at night while attending school full time. She hopes to earn an associate’s degree as a medical laboratory technician next year.
“It’s hard,” she said. “I definitely had to make a lot of sacrifices, but it’s more about finding time wherever I can.”
Smith, who cycles the hour back and forth to campus twice a week, has already taken out student loans from her days at Plymouth State.
Getting into community colleges “is hard for me, and that’s why I have two jobs,” said Smith, who lives with her three cats.
Kelly Smith 26, Northfield, Massachusetts.Kelly Smith joined the Army after high school and planned to become a combat medic.
“The genre has changed,” said Smith, who left after five years with an honorable medical discharge.
“When I came out, I knew I loved the medical field,” she said.
Original Kenny is pursuing an associate’s degree in a radiology technology program, which she plans to graduate from in May.
She considered nursing, but chose radiology instead.
“You have a specific goal and you don’t pull in a million different directions,” said Smith.
She has been training at Cheshire Medical Center in Keene and is confident of finding a permanent job upon graduation.
“I actually have two shows already, so that’s nice,” she said.
Smith considered a four-year school but settled on a two-year program.
“I like to get things done and get them out of the way as quickly as possible,” she said. “I just felt that degree, that a four-year program was really dragged on, I guess.”
Her education was affordable thanks to funding from the Veterans Readiness and Employment Program, which helps those with service-related disabilities.
“I’m about to get paid to go to school,” she said. You receive enough money to cover tuition fees and part of your housing and living expenses.
Being free from student loans will help her move forward.
“I’ll be able to buy a house soon when I graduate. I kind of feel like financially I’m a small step forward,” she said. “It’s not, like, weighing me down. I don’t have all this debt to worry about when I go out. I can focus on like real life.”
Anne Descharne took care of infants and young children at her job at a daycare center.
Now, “What I’m looking for is to start my own daily care,” she said.
So I called River Valley to find out what you need to do.
Desharnais earns a certificate in child development to work more with children. She also learns how to run a business through a 12-week mentoring program called CoStarters.
said Maureen Negro, associate vice president for Academics and Student Affairs.
“It really takes the very basic steps and when they’re done, that’s the basis for the plan of action,” said Znugg.
“It’s just about making sure you’re doing it the right way,” she said, “so you won’t go into too much debt” to start a new business.
To pay for school, Desharnais uses a mixture of loans and scholarships.
In the counseling class, “you learn things you never thought of before,” said Descharne, a mother of four who is caring for her nephew.
“I didn’t think you needed so much to be able to open your own daycare, run your own business, or even take care of the kids,” she said.
Bowen Mather drives a round trip for about two hours to attend his functions and modeling math class.
“I was homeschooled, so I needed math classes,” Mather said, “that introduce pre-arithmetic concepts.”
The teen is considering pursuing engineering at a four-year college but has not completed his plans.
Mather participates in the Bridge2College Early College Program, which allows high school students to take college classes that are transferable to other schools.
The math class students are taking gives the option to attend in person or on Zoom. In a recent classroom, four attended in person and two caught remotely.
All six students are already registered on Zoom.
“They can all turn on their cameras and see each other,” said Rich Andrusiak, professor of mathematics and chair of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Technology, and can monitor each other’s work on shared screens.
Flexibility helps “meet the needs of students,” he said.
For Mather, it was difficult to assess the best option.
“Being homeschooled, I don’t have much experience with traditional classrooms anyway,” he said.
Like many others, Jill Judso has evaluated her life in recent years.
“I did some thinking and thinking during the pandemic about how I wanted to spend the rest of my working years, and decided I really wanted to transition into healthcare homes, and physical therapy was of interest to me,” Godsoe said.
“I found this program and I’m really glad I made the change,” she said.
She hopes to get her associate degree as a physical therapist assistant next year. She drives three hours round trip four days a week.
Godsoe spent 16 years working at Fidelity Investments, the last two years as a business analyst.
“I was just thinking about what’s really important to me, and I really care about health and wellness and helping people, and I thought this would be a good way to do that,” she said.
The school is different now than it was when I attended years ago.
“These days, all our assignments are delivered online and then our exams are online as well,” Godsoe said.
She says attending classes with students closer to her age helps.
“There’s a good mix here. I was surprised. When I decided to go back to school, I said, ‘Oh no, I’m going to be with a bunch of fresh high school grads and I’m going to stick out like a sore thumb,'” but that’s not really the case, Godsoe said.