Angela Taylor wasn't ready for college after graduating from high school, but she was three decades later.
Angela Taylor’s journey at Virginia Peninsula Community College began a long time ago; in 1991 in fact. That is when she first enrolled after graduating from Phoebus High School in Hampton.
“I felt like that's what I needed to do, but not really knowing what I wanted to do,” she said.
She discovered she wasn’t ready for college, and completed just one year before entering the workforce.
“During that time, you could get a good job with your high school diploma,” she said.
Her work was mostly in office settings, handling accounts payable and receivables, and customer service. She also worked for a nonprofit and the City of Hampton. But along the way, she realized it was hard to go beyond entry-level positions without a college degree. She gained a lot of experience, but need something to go with that experience.
“I was tired of going around in circles and being overlooked for positions because I didn’t have a degree,” she said. “So I said it’s time for me to go back.”
That was in 2019. She did all kinds of research. She enjoys accounting and working with people. She looked at a few colleges, but didn’t want to go into debt and didn’t want to take out big loans. She decided to go back to where she started.
“And where I started was Thomas Nelson,” she said, referring to the College by its former name.
The College’s payment plans were a big draw, so she started with one class in January 2020. She’s on track to graduate, at the age of 50, with a business management degree in May 2023. She already has earned a certificate in business principles.
“That’s helping me expand,” she said, noting she can go beyond just business management. “I can look at other options as well.”
Human resources and leadership positions also interest her. She was inducted into the National Society of Leadership and Success in October 2021.
Not having been in classroom for nearly 30 years, Taylor had to make some adjustments. Whiteboards had replaced chalkboards. Everyone had computers. Her classmates were much younger.
However, she said it was a pretty easy transition. She said the key to connecting with classmates was finding a connection. She learned one was from Trinidad, which she had visited, so they talked about that. A number of others also went to Phoebus, although years apart. Discovering what they had in common was the icebreaker.
“And then you just forget about my age, and it's like, OK, we have something in common,” she said.
Adjusting to virtual classes also was a challenge, but everyone, regardless of age, was learning that on the fly, too. She enjoyed being in-person her first semester, and she prefers synchronous classes to asynchronous classes.
“It was good with interacting with other students,” she said, even if it was just through Zoom. “It was still good interaction.”
She learned how younger generations think, and how their language is different.
Eventually, she started taking more classes each semester. She knows the end is in sight. She credits her husband of five years, Eric Taylor, with motivating her and supporting her on her educational journey.
She thinks of her father, who is 97 and wasn’t thrilled when her first attempt at college was cut short. Now, he often tells her how proud he is of her. She said it would mean a lot for him to see her graduate.
“I’m a first-generation student,” she said. “My father, he started college but didn’t finish. I want to be the one that didn’t just start, but I want to be the one to finish.”