Sharon Drye, a graduate student member from the University of South Alabama, got a big surprise when she found out she was one of the recipients of Golden Key’s 2014 Education Debt Reduction Award for $5,000. Last month, she got an even bigger surprise… GEICO was doubling her scholarship amount and she was getting an extra $5,000 toward the repayment of her student loans!
Let’s go back to 2010, when Sharon decided to make a big change in her life.
After working for twenty-six years in the architecture industry, Sharon lost her job. This instance combined with some personal obstacles during the same time, led Sharon to make a change. Having never earned her bachelor’s degree, she decided to go back to school to further her interest in the health field and have better job security in the future. She enrolled in Middle Tennessee State University and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies with minors in behavioral neuroscience and communication disorders.
Next Sharon enrolled in graduate school at the University of South Alabama where she is currently pursuing a degree in audiology. Sharon has a passion for helping people and found a field that she can make a difference in. With her excellent grades, Sharon was invited to join Golden Key last summer. She was excited to join as she strongly relates to Golden Key’s three pillars of academics, leadership and service, and she was very excited for professional development opportunities through Golden Key. “My membership in this organization has empowered me to remain actively committed and further shaped my professional future,” Sharon told us.
While working to obtain her education, Sharon was met with financial struggles. In addition to taking out her own student loans for her undergraduate degree at Middle Tennessee, she had to defer a loan previously taken to pay for her daughter’s first year of college. As a full time student, she had drawn from her retirement to meet her living expenses and after a few years, it was completely exhausted. When she started at the University of South Alabama, she again had to take out money—this time for out-of-state tuition. She worked nights and weekends to hold her over, but her financial situation remained difficult. Through it all, however, Sharon remained determined to finish her degree and to become involved on campus and in the community.
Sharon has a part time job working between two hospitals where she tests babies for hearing loss. She is also a member of the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the Student Academy of Audiology, where she serves her community with several events, such as volunteering in preparation for the 2012 NSSLHA Conference, the Special Kids Race and Christmas Tree Decorating at the Community Care of Rutherford County. As an undergraduate at Middle Tennessee State University, she was also involved in local community hearing screenings for children and educating others about hearing loss at university health fairs. Through her course work and clinical experiences at graduate school, she is conducting diagnostic hearing and vestibular assessments and learning how to manage those impairments.
Once she found out that she was a Golden Key scholarship winner, Sharon was thrilled! “I didn’t know how I was going to finish what I started,” she said. “This scholarship blessed me so much.” Sharon plans to finish her degree in audiology and her externship by May of 2017 and hopes to work for an ENT where she can serve adults with hearing and balance disorders. It is important to Sharon to one-day give back to others who are hoping to do what she is doing—going back to school to further their dreams.
“Words cannot express the depth of gratitude I have to Golden Key International Honour Society and GEICO for recognizing my academic achievement and investing in my education by awarding me with a 2014 Education Debt Reduction Scholarship,” Sharon said. “The decision to return to school as a non-traditional student has certainly come with its share of sacrifices and financial struggles as there are so many other obligations acquired by this point in life. Higher education can be one of life’s long and costly journeys, but this monetary award has greatly alleviated the financial burden associated therein.”
Congratulations, Sharon from all of us at Golden Key HQ!