Christa Dash attended Michigan State University immediately after graduating from high school but returned home to help care for her ailing mom. She intended to return to college when time allowed, but it wasn’t until her son encouraged her to join him at Macomb that she enrolled.
“He’s my hero,” says Dash of William, a senior at Oakland University who has an autism spectrum disorder. “He was my inspiration to go back to school.”
Dash will receive an Associate Degree in General Studies in May. Working full time at Montessori Children’s Academy in Clinton Township, she has been taking two, sometimes three classes, each semester.
“The first time walking into class I was petrified. I thought ‘I’m not smart enough to be here,’” says Dash. “Then I got my first A, and it gave me confidence to continue. Now the excitement I feel when I go to school is incredible.”
After experiencing a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), or mini-stroke, Dash needs a little more time taking tests than is generally allotted. And her son, who does not drive, sometimes needs a ride to or from his classes at Oakland. “My professors understand,” she says, “and are always willing to work with me.”
Despite the challenges she faces, Dash’s grades have earned her membership in Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges. With the assistance of her Macomb counselor, Patricia Dolengowski, she has charted a path that includes transfer to Oakland or Wayne State University to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work.
“Psychology and sociology classes have been my favorite,” says Dash. “I feel my niche will be in working with children and young adults with an autism spectrum disorder or senior citizens.”
In addition to her son, providing Dash moral support throughout her educational journey have been her colleagues at Montessori, where she has worked for 18 years, and her husband, Michael.
“He’s been very supportive,” says Dash. “He’ll help around the house so I can do what I have to do. And what I do on weekends is study.”
Because of her dedication, Dash is likely to graduate with cum laude honors and a transfer scholarship to one of her two university choices. And when she attends the first day of class, she’s confident she will be prepared not petrified.
“I am thoroughly impressed by the fact that I can go to a community college and my professor has a Ph.D.,” says Dash. “I am paying a lot less for the same experience I would have gotten if I started at a university.”