Reaching for Your Dreams: The Path of a Non-Traditional Student at A-State

JONESBORO – The path to higher education is not a linear path for everyone. Often there are starts and stops along the way. There are many factors that limit a student’s ability to attend school full-time, or even part-time.

More than two decades after her high school graduation, Kandice Fields of Deering, Mo., will soon be a graduate of Arkansas State University.

After earning her associate’s degree from Arkansas Northeastern College in 2005 and her dental assistant degree in 2008, Fields has worked full-time as a registered dental assistant.

“The reason I have chosen to pursue my bachelor’s degree in psychology from A-State is I want to be able to help families and kids that have special needs,” said Fields.

Fields said her youngest son was diagnosed with autism at three years old.

“Since having his diagnosis, my focus has been finding him the best care and therapy. Since being on this journey with him, I have learned so much and want to help others in my community,” said Fields.

What made his diagnosis even more difficult was her own diagnosis. The day before learning of her son’s autism, Fields was diagnosed with stage four thyroid cancer in 2017.

“I had two surgeries to remove my thyroid. After my surgeries, I had to have radiation treatment. That was probably the lowest time in my journey. I was very sick and very weak. I had to do the treatments alone because the radiation was toxic to others,” she continued.

Since she works full-time while raising her children and attending school, Fields is getting her degree through A-State’s online program.

“The advisors and professors are always so helpful and available when I need any assistance. Having the core structure of only two classes at a time, taken over periods of seven weeks, makes it easy to do my classwork around my busy life,” she continued.

She said going back to school wasn’t an easy decision and was a surprising move for her loved ones since her career in the dental field is all they’ve ever known.

“My kids could not believe I was going back to school, but they have been supportive since day one. My oldest always asks me how my grades are and if I have any homework, which is ironic now since those are usually my questions to him,” said Fields.

She said her boyfriend, his children and both of their moms were very supportive of her desire to return to school, with everyone pitching in to help with childcare when needed. She is proud to set this example for all of the children in her life that it is never too late to reach for one’s dreams.

“I want them and others to know that no matter what journey life puts them on, they can always strive for what they want in life. My life was forever changed when my little one and I received our diagnoses. But I never gave up. I keep a positive outlook on life, and I keep going. Not every day is going to be easy, but you must remember why you started and keep looking at the end goal. For me, that means being able to help others in something that I am truly passionate about.”

For those who have considered taking the plunge back into the classroom, either in person or virtually, Fields said she is proud to become an A-State graduate and wants to be an encouragement to others.

She said if she could go back and give herself advice, she would.

“The best advice I could give myself is you are stronger than you think. You are braver than you know. The only person that can stand in my way, is me. Love yourself a little more today, than you did yesterday.”

The Summer Commencement ceremony will be held Saturday, Aug. 12, at 10 a.m. at First National Bank Arena, located at 217 Olympic Drive.

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