Feeling trapped at home at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, I, like many other people, found myself wanting a fresh start. I was a single mother of a then-three-year-old son. I was out of work and had no high school diploma or GED. The situation got my mind’s wheels turning—it seemed like a perfect time to kick off a new me. Let’s be honest, though. Reinventing yourself isn’t easy when you’re a single mother. You have to think of your little ones before yourself, right?
To make ends meet, I worked at a convenience store and a consignment shop. I also did some face-painting gigs. I spent time doing creative makeup—such as turning my face into a Baltimore Raven’s logo—and began early-learning activities with my son. We moved into a new apartment. It was a lot to manage at once, but with a large family, I have a strong village and was able to keep up with everything.
My biggest goal for reinventing myself was to go back to school. In 2021, I registered with the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) and passed the GED test. Next, I enrolled in CCBC’s continuing education program to get certified as a pharmacy technician. The training was about six months long, but it was virtual, which made things manageable since my son wasn’t in daycare. During the day, I taught and entertained my son, and in the evening, I studied. I spent weekends cleaning, so I had little “me time,” which can wear on any single mother. But knowing that I was working toward something that could change life for me and my child for the better outweighed any negative feelings I had.
When I received my certification and started working in a pharmacy, my son was beginning kindergarten. This allowed me to enroll in credit courses at CCBC to earn a degree. I’m going to show my son that the sky’s the limit with a proper education. I am currently taking general education courses, including English and women’s studies, and my professors are amazing in assisting with anything I need. Women’s studies has really boosted my confidence as a woman and a mother. Being able to take courses online has been a lifesaver since I don’t have to travel to campus. And with my son being in school for the first time, I don’t have to worry about studying late at night because we study together now. It’s a new process for both of us—my first year of college and his first year of primary school.
My aim is to gain entry into CCBC’s selective admissions mortuary science program. In this field, I’ll have a stable career for life. The words “community college” used to scare me—I used to believe that if I didn’t go to a big university, my degree wouldn’t matter. Earning a degree in mortuary science could take me far—I aim to one day open my own funeral home. CCBC is the only college in Maryland with an accredited mortuary science program. So, my community college degree will matter.
Photograph: Iyona Anderson and her son do schoolwork together. (Courtesy of author)