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As a senior in high school, Zsantee Tapley worked full-time and rarely went to school – it just wasn’t a priority for her, she said. She dropped out only one credit short of graduating.
Time passed. Students Zsantee went to high school with were graduating from college when she completed her final credit and earned a high school diploma from Fort Zumwalt North.
Her tune changed when she had her son and became a single mother. Although research suggests that single moms are 22.2 percent less likely to hold a college degree, Zsantee refused to fall victim to the statistic.
She started taking classes at Moberly Area Community College in Mexico, Mo., at age 25. “When I got a few semesters of general education classes out of the way, I slowly moved closer to St. Charles and started at SCC.”
Because of her experience in bookkeeping at a previous job, Zsantee gravitated toward courses in accounting.
While furthering her education at SCC, Zsantee also advanced in her career. “I was lucky to land a job working at a law firm because my mom had a connection,” she said. “The attorneys I worked for let me work around my class schedule. I could always take the classes I needed and keep working.”
Though Zsantee wasn’t able to transition directly into the accounting field after graduation, she used her degree to enhance her work as a paralegal and helped to establish a little league wrestling club in which her son could participate.
Her combination of experience, education and determination helped Zsantee, a former high school dropout, go on to land her dream job in a downtown high-rise – for one of St. Louis’ most well-known law firms. She then moved from a litigation paralegal position at Brown and Crouppen to a settlement position in the accounting department.
Zsantee now works as an insurance claims adjuster for Gallagher Bassett Services. "It provides me a lot of flexibility in my schedule and allows me more time to dedicate to my son's academics and sports," she said.
“I get to use my degree on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “In the past, I had to teach myself how to do my job. Now that I have an education, there is more certainty in what I’m doing. I worked really hard for this, and I deserve it.”
Last updated: Aug. 1, 2017