Going back to college to pursue a degree was something Jennifer Baker had always considered, but as a single mother of three with a full-time job, how could she find the time? Moving to Lexington, Richmond, or Morehead wasn’t really an option—let alone commuting hours back and forth to class at one of these regional home campuses. Going back to school just didn’t seem to be in the cards for her, or so she thought.
Jennifer heard about the University Center of the Mountains from college promotional materials, and upon inquiring further, she discovered that through the UCM, she could get a bachelor’s degree from a variety of partner universities while staying at home and taking classes locally. “The convenience of taking classes through the UCM allowed me to stay close to home, so I could still maintain my family obligations. It was also more affordable, and with the financial assistance made available to me, I could actually manage the cost,” said Jennifer.
So, in 2012, at 28 years old, she decided to take the plunge and go back to college. “It seemed kind of scary at first, but the advisors and counselors gave me a good idea of what to expect. Most teachers were also helpful and understanding, which was a relief and made things much easier for me to manage with my already crazy schedule.” After getting her associate degree from HCTC and then her bachelor’s in criminal justice from EKU, she will have completed two college degrees in just five years, all while raising three children and working more than 40 hours a week.
It’s even more amazing that Jennifer has found time to volunteer locally, such as by helping a criminal justice club raise money for children in need at Christmas, and in the summer of 2017, she completed an internship with the Department of Juvenile Justice London Group Home working with juveniles. Her extraordinary experiences through observation and internships (sponsored by her HCTC and EKU Criminal Justice programs), combined with her kind heart and care for the local community, helped Jennifer realize that what she really wanted to do with her life was to work with young people in the area. Therefore, when she finishes her bachelor’s degree, she plans to go for her master’s degree in Juvenile Leadership and Policy so she can better help at-risk youth. She adds, “It’s very rewarding to be able to have a positive impact in a young person’s life and hopefully help them become a well-adjusted, productive person as an adult.”
"Stories of success such as Jennifer’s are one of the reasons the UCM is here,” observed Dr. Deronda Mobelini, Executive Director of the University Center of the Mountains. “Through the UCM partners, students are able to access and use education to better their own lives and the lives of others. By supporting students’ desires to give back to their area, we are helping to build stronger communities. Everyone benefits.”
Jennifer Baker is currently a student of the Eastern Kentucky University Criminal Justice program. She lives in Leslie County, graduated from Leslie County High School in 2003, and has three children. She returned to college in 2012.