Sarah Barker graduated from Kaplan University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, with an emphasis applied behavior analysis, in 2016. Her journey towards completing her degree—and changing her life—was filled with many challenges.
“I was in nursing school for about a term. And I met my husband. It was kind of a whirlwind. He was in the Air Force. And in under three months, we were married. We moved to North Carolina because he had .”
Sarah wanted to continue her college education but, like many active-duty military family members, it was hard.
“I tried getting in one of the local community colleges to [earn] my nursing degree, and they wouldn't take my credits. And after talking it over, I wanted an education that I could take with us if we got transfer orders. I wanted to be able to take my education with me and not drop it in the middle of something and have to start all over.”
A year after enrolling in Kaplan University, Sarah received terrifying news: her mother had been in a near-fatal semi-truck accident and had been life-flighted to a hospital in Oklahoma City, over 1,200 miles away.
“I was starting another term at Kaplan [University] and I just packed up my laptop and took it with us. We were there for about a week. I was glad that I could take my laptop and just be able to continue my education. And of course I'm six, seven months pregnant, and that was a really long drive, but I was able to work on homework on the road.”
When she got back home, Sarah was faced with another challenge. Her husband, a Crew Chief on the F-15Es, was receiving an honorable discharge from the Air Force 2-1/2 years early due to budget cuts. The young family was soon faced with moving from North Carolina to Illinois so they could live with family.
“We had maybe two months’ notice. I was able to take my education with me, which was good, and we moved in with my husband's family. I'm very grateful they helped us out.”
Five weeks after the birth of Sarah’s second son, she found a position as a direct support personal (DSP), working with the developmentally disabled. She loved her job but was working the third shift and the hours were difficult, especially with young children at home. Further, there were people who told Sarah she should give up on school and just focus on work and her kids.
Yet Sarah was determined not to give up the pursuit of her degree.
“I just kept pushing and pushing. I worked third shift, getting my education. I had two young boys. I don't know very many people going to school that can work full time, continue to go to school, and have two young children at home. Sometimes you have to give those things up. And thankfully, Kaplan [University] was online, and I [could study] in my free time, and not have to drive away, or take time from work. I could work the classes into my schedule.”
Two days after graduating from Kaplan University, Sarah started a new job at a local nursing home as a social service director, a position that increased her salary and doesn’t require working the third shift.
“I'll be working hand-in-hand as a case manager with people with developmental disabilities. I will also be starting the process to become a qualified intellectual disabilities professional, a QIDP. They had three positions open and I'm very grateful to have that job. [W]hen I worked third shift, I worked with developmentally disabled, and it was something I really, really wanted to do. I kept telling my husband, I said, ‘That's the job I want.’ ”
Kaplan University cannot guarantee employment, salary increase, or career advancement.