Mercedes Marshall’s nearly 10-year higher education journey marked with working full time and raising her family as a single mother will culminate this month with the achievement of her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice degree from Polk State College.
A recipient of the Complete Florida Scholarship – part of a program that provided funds for students who left college before reaching graduation but who were motivated to complete their degrees – Marshall’s success is a shining example of the benefits of investing in higher education and supporting students in persevering toward their higher education and career goals.
“Delayed but never denied,” Marshall said. “Because of Polk State and Complete Florida, here I am.”
The importance of education was instilled in Marshall at a young age by her mother, who was also a single parent. Inspired by her mother, Marshall strives to serve as a positive example for her 11-year-old daughter, Armoni.
“It feels amazing to be a college student and an example for my daughter,” she said. “I want her to know education is number one and that she should remain determined.”
“Polk State helped me get on track with the classes I needed. From the program advisors to the professors, everyone is in your corner.”
Marshall started her college career at Phoenix University online. She then transferred to a nearby state college and another private university before finding her home at Polk State College.
“Polk State helped me get on track with the classes I needed. From the program advisors to the professors, everyone is in your corner,” she said. “The faculty and staff at Polk State really want to see you happy and to become a part of your success as you achieve your goals.”
Marshall, like so many nontraditional students, works full time, raises a family, and goes to college. In fact, 74 percent of Polk State students attend part time.
Polk State’s Criminal Justice Program offers online and hybrid classes to meet the needs of busy professionals, thus it was a good fit for Marshall.
“The price of classes, them being online, and the knowledge of the professors were the reasons I decided that Polk State works best for me,” Marshall said, noting the support, availability, and flexibility of the College’s faculty. “The professors at Polk State give their emails and cell phone numbers, and answer questions to be there for the students.”
During the day, Marshall works for Orange County Public Schools in the testing department. She served as a discipline clerk for years.
Marshall has been motivated and changed by her experience at the school. Years ago, she wanted to be an interior designer, but in working with the kids, she now has a passion to become a social worker.
“I want to work with juveniles, perhaps in juvenile probation,” she shared. “Children are our future, and we should want them to get on a straight and narrow path to success.”
“My degree from Polk State will enable me to live comfortably and my daughter won’t have to see me struggle. With it, I will make change in the lives of others.”
Through the Polk State Criminal Justice Program, Marshall has received the education and training that equips her for success in her future role.
“The professors here are current, they focus on real-life situations, and they’re not boring,” she said.
Ten years ago, Marshall knew she wanted a bachelor’s degree and now that she is on the precipice of her journey, she aspires to gain a master’s degree in social work next.
“My degree from Polk State will enable me to live comfortably and my daughter won’t have to see me struggle,” she said. “With it, I will make change in the lives of others.”
Polk State will recognize Marshall and the College’s fall 2020 graduates during a virtual graduation celebration on December 10 at 6:30 p.m. on www.polk.edu/academics/graduation and Polk State’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.