The most important thing Rebecca Schauer learned in college was how to give herself a second chance.
The 31-year-old dropped out of the Community College of Rhode Island with failing grades in 1996. It took her 10 years to find a career she truly wanted and to go back to school to learn how to get into that field. This month, she is graduating with a 4.0 GPA in the Travel, Tourism and Hospitality certificate program.
"I wanted to move on to something bigger and better," she said, "I wanted to feel like I accomplished something. Nobody was putting pressure on me; I wanted to come back."
This fall, Schauer will begin an internship in the hospitality program at Disney World, working with celebrities and VIPs. In the fall, she will attend Johnson & Wales University in North Carolina in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in event planning. Her ultimate goal is to turn her Disney internship into a job, working for the company as a travel agent and helping vacationers plan a Disney cruise or theme park vacation.
Her own journey to this point has been a long one.
When Schauer first enrolled at CCRI, it was simply because she thought it was expected of her after high school. Without her own motivation, Schauer rarely attended classes and dropped out after two semesters.
"I didn’t want to be here. I was really young," she said. "I think attitude has a lot to do with success."
After leaving college, Schauer began work as a teacher’s assistant, working with children in preschool through elementary school. Schauer said she enjoyed working with children, but was frequently sick and wanted to make a change after 10 years on the job. An avid traveler, Schauer booked a vacation to Disney World in 2006 and was impressed with the travel agent’s work. She decided that the career of a travel agent, helping different people every day and researching exotic locations, was the career change she had been looking for.
Schauer re-enrolled at CCRI in January 2007 as a sociology major. Her goal was to earn good grades this time around and then enroll at Johnson & Wales University to pursue her dream. However, she soon learned that CCRI offered her desired major and immediately transferred into it. She also discovered that many of her professors also teach at Johnson & Wales.
"You get their experience for half the price," she said.
In her second attempt at college, Schauer was a model student. The difference this time, she said, was motivation. "I had a goal that I was going toward instead of just aimlessly taking classes," she said. "I found it really easy to study something I was passionate about."
Schauer said this is a lesson that any student can follow.
"Find something you really want to do and study hard," she said.