Shelby Schwartz, 24 and from Center Line, has experienced a lifetime of loss in just a few short years. But, thanks to a strong support system from friends and Macomb’s faculty, she now has an associate degree to her name and bright prospects for the future.
“I’ve been working towards my current degree for almost six years,” says Schwartz, “and the longer it took, the less I wanted to continue.”
Thankfully, Schwartz persevered in the face of several hardships, many of which began in high school. Schwartz’s senior year at Center Line High School saw the passing of six people in her sphere, including her brother.
“I spent my last week of high school with him and ended up failing a lot of my finals,” notes Schwartz, “but I still graduated with honors, and I’m very proud of that.”
While Schwartz was awarded a scholarship to attend Eastern Michigan University, she prioritized her family and instead came to Macomb.
“Sometimes I think about how different my life would have been had I gone to a university,” ruminates Schwartz, “and I always conclude that I am who I am today because of Macomb.”
Initially, Schwartz started by taking online classes to meet her general studies requirements, but found that remote education required “a lot of self-discipline that I didn’t have at 17,” especially for somebody with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder who “can’t focus like other students.” She soon discovered Macomb’s Speech Communication Arts program and realized she had found her calling.
“It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” relates Schwartz. “My friends like to tell me that the program is perfect for me because I talk too much.”
Given this, it should come as no surprise that Schwartz’s favorite class was Interpersonal Communication. She believes learning to communicate with others is a critical skill, and it will undoubtedly prove useful in her future career. Currently working as a caregiver for LaJoy Group, she hopes to one day manage social media for a radio station or large corporation.
“I want to be like the person that runs the Wendy’s Twitter account,” adds Schwartz about the fast food chain whose social media menu consists of humorous posts that often poke fun at their competitors.
In 2019, tragedy struck Schwartz once again when she lost one of her best friends. Feeling overwhelmed, she considered dropping out until her favorite professor, Janet McKenney, proposed an alternative. McKenney reminded her student that, while “it was okay to need some time off,” she “was already so close to the finish line.” Instead, she suggested taking a one-semester sabbatical to work through her grief.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dr. J., and I wouldn’t be getting my degree if it wasn’t for her,” says Schwartz. “She’s an incredible role model.”
Schwartz, who is currently living with her mother and in the process of adopting her niece, graduated this month with an Associate of Applied Science in Speech Communication Arts. The fact that it took a little longer for her to reach this point is of little concern.
“Society convinces us that we need to have everything figured out by a specific time or age and it’s not true,” explains Schwartz. Forget society, because you’re not doing this for them, you’re doing it for you.”