SOUTHAVEN, Miss. – Cheryl Scott is no stranger to hard work. A student in the elementary education program at the University of Mississippi at DeSoto Center-Southaven, Scott is finishing her degree while also caring for her five children.
“It has been extremely challenging,” Scott said. “I have to balance my time studying and working on assignments with spending time with my husband and kids.”
Scott is on track to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She is interested in teaching in an inclusion classroom, which includes children in the special education program as well as regular education students.
During her time at the UM regional campus, Scott worked as a special education assistant at Hernando Middle School.
“I will be dually certified in special education when I graduate,” she said. “My professors understand that most teachers will have students with disabilities of some sort in their classrooms and believe it would be an advantage for education majors to be knowledgeable in how to meet the needs of all students.”
The ability to make a difference in the lives of students was a driving force for Scott. Even more so, however, was the encouragement of her children, Morghan, 16, Halle, 13, Landon, 12, Jacob, 9, and Jaiden, 8, as well as her husband Michael.
“Sometimes it was hard, especially for my younger children, to understand why I couldn’t be there or do things with them,” she said. “They knew I was very busy but that it wouldn’t be for long. Knowing that I was so close to being finished with all this hard work helped them to be patient.”
It has been a long road for Scott. She first attended Northwest Community College the summer of her high school graduation in 1999. After marrying the following October, she immediately started a family.
“I had three children and was pregnant with my fourth by the time I graduated,” she said. “It took me six years to complete my associate degree. That took a lot of patience and determination. I had one more child after graduation and decided to stay home with the kids until they were old enough to attend school.”
All of Scott’s kids were enrolled in school in 2014, so she decided it was time to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
“UM-Desoto was the obvious choice,” she said. “It was convenient, and I knew that the University of Mississippi would be an excellent school from which to obtain my degree.”
Amber Carpenter-McCullough, assistant professor of teacher education, supported Scott during her time at UM-DeSoto.
“Throughout the duration of the courses in which I was fortunate to have her as a student, Cheryl actively participated and provided insight to our class discussion,” Carpenter-McCullough said. “Although Cheryl has had to continue to be a wife, a parent and an employee, her continued devotion to college illustrates her personal strength and resilience. I believe that Cheryl has demonstrated that she will not only make an impact on students in her K-12 classes, but that she will also excel as a teacher.”
Scott said she learned how capable she was while taking classes at the DeSoto campus. At times, she questioned if she was neglecting family obligations and even if she was smart enough to complete the coursework.
“By being a good example and working hard, I realized I was being a good mother,” she said. “By working hard, being persistent and giving it my all, I realized I was smart enough to do what needed to be done. I learned so much about myself.”
Scott said many of her classmates have families and work, which is why the location of the regional campus is so pivotal.
“The UM-DeSoto campus makes it possible for us to have the opportunity to pursue our dreams and excel in areas we never thought possible,” she said.
Scott, who hopes to teach for a year and then enroll in graduate school, has some advice for those who are thinking about furthering their education.
“It won’t be easy; it will be hard work,” she said. “It will take time; it won’t happen overnight. However, you will meet classmates who will become lifelong friends and professors with contagious passion.
“You will be challenged, and sometimes you will think there’s no way you will succeed. Don’t lose heart, don’t lose faith and remember why you started the journey. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish once you put your mind to it.”
Housed in the DeSoto Center, the regional campus offers undergraduate (junior and senior) and graduate programs for traditional and nontraditional students. For more information, visit http://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/desoto/ or call 662-342-4765.