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August 17, 1984 - Image 40

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-08-17

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.




n the spring of 1976, I
was 31 years old. My
marriage was founder-
ing. I was dissatisfied with
my job. My daughter, Rebe-
kah, was 18 months old.
Crossroads were every-
where, but not one was paved
with yellow bricks. It was de-
finitely time to make some
major decisions I had been
For example, although I
had been living in Eureka,
California for four years, it
still felt about as foreign to
me as Korea, where I had
spent a year. In Eureka,
when you tell people your
name is Mendelsohn, they
say, "What? Henderson?
Anderson? Nicholson?" Did I
want to stay in Eureka or
move back to the East Coast?
Did I want to live in the coun-
try or the city? Maybe I
should move 300 miles south
to San Francisco.
Decision Number Two:
How could I earn`maney? I'd
had jobs which essentially
utilized similar skills. In
New York, I had done public-
ity for Macmillan Books. In
Korea, I had raised money for
Start of the Sea Children's
- In Eureka, I had organized
a public relations depart-
ment for a hospital, a public-
ity department for a theatric-
al company, worked on a
campaign to defeat a pro-
posed dam and headed the
publicity department of a
small publishing company.
Decision Number Three:
How could I combine career
with motherhood? I had done
all the Eureka projects on a
I assumed the admissions
freelance basis and mostly office of the local' university
from my home, a working would be able to tell me the
arrangement that blended best way to get the necessary
beautifully with my lifestyle. experience and degree. Not
Now, however, I wanted to so. After speaking with
try something other than someone in that office, some-
publicity and public rela- one in the psychology depart-
tions, especially on a more ment and people at the local
permanent basis than junior college, none of the
available options seemingly
Many women who return offered what I needed, a mas-
to school do so with the sup- ter's degree in psychology or
port of relatives or friends. counseling with lots of field
For me,. the catalyst was a work.
friend. One day as I mulled
Then I realized that sever-
over my options, my friend al people in town were doing
asked an interesting ques- what I wanted to be doing. I
tion: "Aside from being a called them up to ask what
mother, how do you really their academic backgrounds
want to spend your time?" —were. Some of them, it turned
Well, I liked talking with out, had graduated from the
other women about major life state's Pupil Personnel Ser-
changes, and serving as a vices Program, which meant
support to women who they received a master's de-
needed an extra boost to get gree in psychology plus a
them into a new phase in credential to work in the
their lives. So the question school system as guidance
became: Why not make a counselors.
career of what I liked to do?
The program placed a
That decided, I had to fi- heavy emphasis on field
gure out the simplest way to ' work, and the story was that
get from point A to point B. you might be able to do your
Point A was my bachelor's field work at the college or
degree in philosophy from junior college level rather
Connecticut College and than the elementary or
solid experience in public re- _ secondary school level. A talk
lations and publicity. Point B with the program's head con-
was acquiring the knowledge firmed this, although there
and experience for counsel- were no guarantees.
*The, procesa began. Trans-;
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Divorced and with an 18-month old
child to support, the author wanted
a well-paying job in a rewarding
field. The answer? Return to college.


) ' :: ,...


Special to The Jewish News

cripts were sent for. Letters
of recommendations soli-
cited. The dreaded Graduate
Record Examination was not
required for admission, only
once you were admitted to
the program. A letter stating
my reasons for wanting to be
in the program, my goals, etc.
has to be carefully worded, I
started wondering about
financial aid, and where Re-
bekah would be while I was
in class.
I was admitted to the pro-
gram about one month after
applying. It seemed too good
to be true, and it was.
Although I was admitted to
the program, I was not yet
accepted by the university
because all my transcripts
were not in. "I'll give the
school in question a call,"
said I. "What do you need?"
The Sorbonne, Paris, France.
Hoping that thoroughness
would earn me 'points", I had
put down everything I could
think of in the way of school-
ing on my admissions ap- ,
plication. In the summer of
1964, I took a course, non-
credit, at the Sorbonne.
Twelve years later, Hum-
boldt State University
wanted proof that the course
had indeed been non-credit,
so P needed to write to the
I figured my.. goose- was

cooked. Surely the Sorbonne about returning to school
had better things to go than concerned Rebekah: What
write letters verifying non- kind of child care could I find
credit to teenagers taking for her, and how would she
courses on their way through react to it? Miracle of mira-
Paris during summer vaca- cles, the campus had adja-
cent pre-school and toddler
The Sorbonne came centers located near where
through with a letter bearing the psychology classes were .
a very impressive seal. The held. Reportedly, these cen-
gist was that Mendelsohn ters provided the best child
had received no credit. It took care in the country.
me three months longer to
When I went to meet the
get into the university than staff, they looked somehow
the program, but I was in.
as if they had seen me before.
Unfortunately, I ap- Did I think I was the only one
proached, the financial aid to suffer from guilt feeling at
office with the assumption not being a "full time" Mom?
that I did not qualify for I went back a second time, to
assistance: Because of this, I walk nonchalantly around
did not ask the right question the boundaries of the two
and did not pursue the ave- centers. The head of the tod-
nues that were explained to dler center came out, and we
me. Later, I discovered that talked some more. After
many grants, loans and scho- awhile, she said, "You know,
larships are geared specifi- there really aren't any holes
cally to people who are re- in the fence." She definitely
turning to school after a con- had seen "me" before!
To my surprise, I found
siderable absence.
Almost all of my "reentry" that I qualified for state-
friends managed to find some funded child care for Rebe-
kind of financial aid, espe- kah. This meant that, de-
cially the work-study pro- pending on your income, fees
were on a sliding wale with
grams in which you are given the state picking up the rest
ajob on campus. Their secret of the tab. During most of our
to finding aid was doing a two years on campus, I' paid
research and
job ap-
on ten cents per hour for child
what was available,
plying early.
Before school began, the
,my fijggeStlf_Pr toddler centerheld a prienta-
J Pi%)
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tion meeting for parents and
children. The program was
explained, the building ex-
plored, questions answered.
Rebekah was delighted with
so many new things to look
at. I was delighted to see
other mothers who seemed to
share similar fears and
hopes. It was all very reas-
The first day of school, Re-
bekah and I drove to campus
where I deposited her at the
toddler center and then raced
over to the psychology build-
ing for class. I expected the
psychology class to consist of
teenagers who might be
potential babysitters if the
toddler center was a flop.
Times have certainly
changed. Most of the stu-
dents were in their late twen-
ties, with several years of
work experience under their
belts. They were back in
school either to change their
careers or to add credentials.
I did my best to pay atten-
tion that first class, but after
about 20 minutes, I realized I
was unable to hear the pro-
fessor. My heartbeat was
pounding in my ears. I lOoked
down and could actually see
my heart palpitating in my
I battled myself for a few
minutes. After all, it was
absurb to overreact this way,
but visions of Rebekah sob-
bing on the toddler center
floor ran through my mind.
Unable to take it anymore, I
left the classroom to peer in
the toddler's center's win-
What do you think I found?
Another mother peering into
the very same window. Both
of our children were doing
just beautifully.
Being a full-time reentry
student and single parent
was not particularly relax-
ing. Neither was another op-
tion among the women I met,
namely working full time
and attending school part
time. However, most reentry
students discovered special
benefits from being back in
school. Following are some of
'the unexpected bonuses of
school I experienced.
I was successful. I wound
up one course shy of straight
A's, an amazing feat con-
sidering I had a C plus aver-
age during my undergradu-
ate days. It's hard for reentry
students to imagine they will
do well, but the statisticade-
„finitely point to success.
A Study at De Paul and Ro-
chester IJniversities showed
that, women over age 40 did
ten percentile points better
on the average than their
young classmates. At the
University of Michigan, 91
percent of the female return-
ing students earned grades
as good as or better than their
undergraduate records.
With success comes a
dramatic increase in self-
confidence; a wonderful asset
to take along on a job inter-
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