Returning learner confirms that patience pays off

Almost 30 years out of high school and working a full-time job, Becky Bozarth struggled over whether to go back to school and earn a college degree.

Growing up in O’Fallon, Becky had what she called “an average high school experience.” She graduated from Fort Zumwalt High School knowing that college wasn’t really a financial option.

She took a job in a factory. But after two and a half years, Becky decided it was not something she wanted to do long-term.

“If I would’ve stayed there much longer, I’d probably still be stuck doing the same thing today,” Becky said. “I didn’t really see myself doing anything with my life at that point, because I wasn’t really thinking about it.”

At age 22, Becky made the decision to follow in the footsteps of her father and grandfather by entering the military. She may not have known it at the time, but this decision would help her get to where she is today.

“The military was just the right direction for me to go in at the time,” she said. “It straightened me out, and I started to see myself working there long-term.”

And that’s just what she did.

Becky spent the next 25 years working for the military in the Missouri Air National Guard. “There were so many things that the military instilled in me,” Becky said. “I gained a sense of commitment, accountability and, most importantly, pride.”

Still, things didn’t go exactly as she planned.

When Becky started in the National Guard, she wanted to work in the telephone lineman repair sector. She soon discovered she was unable to perform some of the physical strength requirements that area called for and was reclassified as an administrative assistant.

Despite some hesitancy, she said she did what they asked of her and recognized it as a blessing is disguise. “In the beginning, I thought it was unexciting, but when I started working in personnel and getting to help people, I felt as though I had found my place.”

A change of scenery

With a renewed sense of direction and, later, a new law providing tuition payments for her military status, Becky started to think more seriously about attending St. Charles Community College, which was right up the road.

Although important to her, school always seemed a little selfish because she already had so much on her plate. “Being employed full-time, having a home and family to take care of and going to school did not seem like a workable choice,” said Becky. “I worried about whether my family would be taken care of if I took this big step.”

She wondered if adding classes to the equation would be worth it.

In 2000, everything changed when she was diagnosed with kidney cancer. She started to look at life differently. Again.

“Anything can happen, and you don’t know how long you have,” Becky said.

She realized she might not always be around to make her goals a reality, and there was no time like the present to start making them happen.

In 2003, at age 43, with tuition reimbursement available and her new cancer-free outlook on life, Becky took the leap and enrolled at SCC.

She had taken classes here and there in the past, but this time she made a serious commitment to herself to earn a degree in Business Technology at SCC.

“My husband, Rick, really encouraged me. And at the time my son, Josh, thought it was really cool that his mom was in school,” she said.

While at SCC, Becky made a career change and landed a job at Lincoln County Medical Center (LCMC) in Troy, Mo., as an office manager in the billing department. After a year in that position, she moved to the nursing department and found her home.

“I do a little bit of everything for my job,” Becky said. “I work for the chief of nursing who oversees seven units. We are very busy. I spend my days working on forms, creating graphs and spreadsheets, setting up interviews, electronic filing of nursing reports, booking conference rooms and the list goes on.”

“The knowledge that Becky brings to the table at LCMC is invaluable,” said Mary Kay Kunza, Becky’s coworker and human resources manager at LCMC. “Becky is admired by her coworkers and is an asset to LCMC.”

Sharing what she knows

Since Becky has been in school while working full-time, she finds many of the things she’s learned applicable to her daily life. “Becky applies the educational tools she has obtained from SCC and the military to her everyday work life,” said Kunza. “She is known as the guru of Microsoft Office products at LCMC and has assisted many with her skills from front-line personnel to administration.”

Kunza’s assessment of Becky came as little surprise to Andrea Compton, associate professor of Business Technology at SCC. “Becky worked hard in her classes and took a lot of pride in her work,” said Compton.

Becky enjoys helping others with Microsoft Office at work, because those were her favorite classes required for the Associate of Applied Science degree in Business Technology.

Those classes translated directly to her everyday work. “I really enjoy it when people at work come to me for help with Excel,” said Becky. “I may not be the best at it, but I have learned so much from my classes at SCC that I am confident in my ability to help.”

Since Becky works full-time, she was only able to manage one or two evening classes a semester. After taking 10 years of classes at SCC, she completed her associate degree in Business Technology.

“I was so grateful not to have a time limit for earning my degree,” she said. “It took me a while, but I got my degree, and I believe I’m a better person for earning it.”

Business Technology programs at SCC address the full range of technology and office management skills. They provide the training necessary to become an administrative assistant, executive secretary, office manager, receptionist, clerical assistant, desktop publisher and areas of customer service.

“Becky was motivated on her own and knew what she wanted to accomplish,” said Compton. “She didn’t let anything stop her.”

Article by Brynne Cramer. Photos by Ben Munson

About Brynne Cramer

Hi! My name is Brynne, and I am the marketing specialist at St. Charles Community College. I love to talk, laugh, learn, write, and spend time with my family and friends. I graduated from Missouri State University with a bachelor's degree in Public Relations in May 2012, where I was also a member of the women's swim team. I am currently pursuing a master's degree in communications with an emphasis on promotions at Lindenwood University. In my free time, I write a personal blog: Check it out! I look forward to the future and what it brings!
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