College is for boys.
That was the feedback Janet Donovan, founding Board member of College STILL Achievable (CSA), received from her mother when she was graduating high school.
While Donovan, age 56, was pregnant at sixteen and chose adoption, she graduated high school with a 3.67 grade point average and completed college preparation classes. Her guidance counselor believed in Donovan’s ability to excel in college and called her mother to talk about this.
“Actually, my mother was angry she called. She did not see college in my future,” Donovan said.
Because college was for boys.
Donovan watched her eight-year older brother graduate college to become a very successful high school teacher and coach.
She watched her sister, who was eleven years older than Donovan, attend college for three semesters. “With some convincing from my mother, she (Donovan’s sister) dropped out.”
“My teachers encouraged me to go to college, but there was no support at home…the tradition was for the boys of the family to go and not the girls,” Donovan explained. Her mother said further, "There would be no financial support to help you and aid is a public hand down; this family doesn't do that."
Fortunately, Donovan had good jobs in healthcare administration. “I always wanted to be a manager. I felt I had the qualities and experience, but was over looked because I lacked a degree. I also wanted to earn more money to help support my family,” Donovan said.
In 1997, at age 37, Donovan enrolled in a supervisory business program, the same time she started her life as a single mother. She had four children, with her youngest being five, and she reunited with her fifth son, who was then age 18.
“They (her children) were the joys of my life. I worked full time in healthcare, most of all of those years and devoted my time to taking them to their sporting events, helping them with homework, volunteering as a mentor/tutor through Waukesha County, and cherishing friendships with the children's parents,” Donovan said.
“That was my life, taking care of my children, my home, and volunteering, but no real life for me,” she said.
College was time just for Donovan. “I was so scared, but yet happy and excited that I had a Monday night for three hours to myself. My first night off just for me to learn more about life. The thought that I could advance my career now was very exciting and energizing,” she said.
Yet, it was not easy. And she could have used the mentoring, support, and instruction of CSA to help her out especially as she became a single mother in just two months of beginning her college career.
“Computers? I always fell behind the young kinds in the class and sort of looked at the screens of people around me. It was hard doing this on my own,” Donovan said.
She struggled in using a diskette, the necessary device needed to save important class assignments.
In fact, she broke it, and relied on her 10-year old child to help her. “He was very patient with me, and I didn’t break another diskette after that,” she said.
She later went on to Carroll University for there 2 plus 2 program but it was at Ottawa University where she completed her bachelors and masters in business management.
Donovan jumped at the chance to be on the founding Board of Directors for CSA, a division of Literacy For All, Inc.
“It is the perfect idea of expanding what literacy means, widening the view and helping more people. I sure could have used the help at age 37,” Donovan said. "Helped me to be successful right from the start."
CSA helps adults gain the basic or advanced reading comprehension, persuasive, and academic writing skills and technology skills to help community members be successful in college. With volunteer academic coaches and career literacy tutors, students can achieve their individual goals.
“It always feels good giving back,” said Donovan, who did her share of volunteering. “Women can do anything they want if they put their mindset into focus, ask questions, and don’t give up until they have every answer they need to achieve their goals.”
“Literacy For All is perfect because it is the idea of expanding what literacy means, widening the view, thinking out of the box, and helping more people, not just the young or those who can’t read or write. It is rewarding to see this organization grow. To know we are a part of making a difference and to witness the spirit in helping people through this organization as people fulfill their dreams and goals!" Donovan emphasized.
Donovan is nearly done with her doctorate in business management from Walden University and is four classes away from completing her dissertation on emotional intelligence.
“I want to help people achieve their goals,” Donovan said. "Giving back is what this is about. It's a wonderful feeling."