Deanna Dyndur of Providence is through being held back. After two false starts in college, she spent years unable to attain her dream of becoming a police officer because she lacked a higher education.
Now she has graduated from the Community College of Rhode Island with a degree in Law Enforcement and will go on to pursue a new goal: law school.
Dyndur, 38, had to change her attitude toward education before she could achieve this success, a process that took years.
“I come from a blue-collar family. Education was not emphasized or even a priority,” she said. “My only expectation was to graduate from high school.”
Dyndur had a difficult time in middle school and high school. She was obese as a child, which led to teasing and made her a timid student. When Dyndur expressed herself in school assignments, she could not bear to see her teachers’ criticisms and developed a fear of writing that remained an obstacle to her academic achievement for years.
“Teachers don’t realize what all that red pen does to students,” she said.
Dyndur “just barely” graduated from Classical High School in Providence, with a “D-” in her final English class.
Free of school at last, Dyndur entered the work force but found that all of her friends were in college. Almost to fit in as much as to pursue an education, Dyndur enrolled at CCRI for the spring semester in 1991.
“I was not enthusiastic at all about continuing my education,” she said, “but everyone I knew was in college so I gave it a shot.”
Dyndur’s enrollment at CCRI did not continue into the fall and she returned to the work force as a cashier at Stop and Shop.
In 1996, Dyndur decided to make another attempt at finishing college. She realized that there was no room for her to advance at her job without further education and had also lost 80 pounds since she was last in school, which made her feel much more confident. She enrolled at Rhode Island College to take classes toward a degree in special education, but her fear of writing remained an issue.
“As the semesters progressed and I saw the writing assignments, I came up with reasons not to produce them, at times even dropping the class entirely,” she said.
Dyndur was at RIC until 2001, when she left for a personal emergency.
“In 2001, my partner attempted suicide so that was more important to me [than college],” she said. “But when I look back on it, that was really just an excuse.”
After leaving RIC, Dyndur’s aborted attempt at college continued to haunt her in the form of garnished wages to pay for her student loans.
She began to look for a better-paying job and decided on law enforcement, which appealed to her as a way to serve her community without requiring a degree – or so she thought.
Dyndur applied to 10 police departments in Rhode Island and Connecticut as positions became available from 2000 to 2008, making it to the final round of interviews several times, but always being passed over for better-educated candidates.
“Basically my lack of education was prohibiting me from advancing yet again,” Dyndur said. “I was embarrassed.”
Frustrated, Dyndur enrolled at CCRI in 2008 with the simple goal of doing well enough to graduate and be accepted to a police department. She felt that if a department offered her a job while she was still in school, she would drop out.
That attitude changed when she took a psychology class with Monica Lee, coordinator of CCRI’s Access program, which assists first-generation or low-income students.
Lee required her students to keep a regular journal and, at the end of the semester, selected Dyndur’s as the best in the class.
“That was the first positive recognition of my writing since middle school,” Dyndur said. “She basically took me under her wing.”
With Lee’s encouragement, Dyndur joined the Access program and began taking classes full time.
She took six courses last semester while working a full workweek at Bradley Hospital as a classroom behavior specialist. She maintained a 3.83 GPA despite this rigorous schedule and graduated as a Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society member. She also was a finalist for student commencement speaker.
During her time at CCRI, Dyndur met several teachers who inspired her, including Dr. Ronald Schertz, who called her a scholar for the first time in her life, and Assistant Professor Sheryl MacDougall, who changed Dyndur’s life with a simple comment written in her final exam.
When she opened her final exam from MacDougall’s administration of justice class she found, written in usually dreaded red pen, a note from MacDougall encouraging her to continue taking courses in law.
“The success of this school is only as good as the faculty,” Dyndur said. “They are dedicated to the ultimate success of the students; that’s all they want.”
Dyndur has applied to Northwestern University, Suffolk University, Roger Williams University and Northeastern University. After receiving her bachelor’s degree, she will apply to law school.
“The more classes I take in law, the more I’m fascinated by it,” Dyndur said.
She said she would love to return to CCRI as an adjunct faculty member to help give back to the school that changed how she thought about learning, life and herself.
“I was no longer the kid who sat in the back of class,” Dyndur said. “I finally became the student I always wanted to be.”