They say timing is everything and for Nicole Peterson, 37, the time was right to pursue higher education and follow her dreams. Peterson admits to being one of the statistics of the high school girls who drop out of school after becoming pregnant at the age of 16.
“As with most teenage moms, the responsibilities catapulted me right into adulthood, ready or not,” said Peterson, of Mesa. “I share my story because I think it’s helpful for others who struggle to hear these kinds of stories.”
The road was not an easy one. After a car accident, pain from injuries, another pregnancy and the deaths of her best friend and second son’s father, she simply didn’t have the time, money or confidence to pursue an education.
She began to overcome the challenges in 2009, when she finished her GED and completed schooling in medical assisting. After deciding to change her path and pursue her love of technology, she graduates from Mesa Community College with an Associate in Applied Science, Web Developer.
“As a first-generation college student, I was ignorant of the complexities of college, and I certainly did not have the funds to attend,” Peterson said. “With copious amounts of hard work, the sacrifices and support of my family, and others' generosity, my goals are becoming a reality.”
She decided to attend the MCC Southern and Dobson campus because it was close to her home. Peterson also attended the Red Mountain campus and enjoyed the beauty of that area.
“Venturing to MCC was incredibly challenging, but I did it and I’m so happy I did,” she said. “MCC was so accommodating. Jan Pitts, my math teacher, was very helpful as I stayed after class and worked on homework. The tutoring centers were helpful as well.”
Peterson also gained valuable experience with a capstone course [Technopreneur Experience], in lieu of doing an internship. She helped create two apps, one for a Mesa coffee shop -- Jarrod’s Coffee, Tea & Gallery -- and for Reach Out AZ, to help grade school children. She gives credit for the opportunity to be involved in these projects to Dr. Angeline Surber and Dr. Debra LaVergne, the MCC Computer Information Systems Department chair and program director, respectively.
“I know their efforts demonstrated a genuine desire to help me succeed,” Peterson said.
This year’s pandemic created unique challenges, as she assisted her children with schooling at home while she completed her own classes and her husband worked. Throughout it all, she maintained a 4.0 grade point average.
“I love technology,” she said. “I decided to get into it because I was desperate to create a website for myself, a bartering site. Struggling as a single mother, I needed funds for daycare. A lot of people were helping, but I wanted to be able to barter and pay it forward, plus generate random acts of kindness.”
Next fall she transfers to Arizona State University to complete her Bachelor of Applied Science In Internet and Web Development. After that, she’ll have the skills to follow up on several ideas, including the bartering website, a budgeting app and a nonprofit site to help people find resources that she has used throughout her difficult years. Her husband is entering the programming field as well, so they can work together to “pay it back.”
“Web development fulfills my desire to create and problem solve, but it is also a burgeoning career field with gainful employment and no foreseeable expiration date,” she said. “My passion lies in philanthropic work, and I hope to secure a position where I can hone my skills and develop new ones.”
Peterson said she would tell other students who are struggling to try MCC.
“It’s worth it,” she said. “The programs and faculty are always there for students. They go above and beyond to help you succeed.”