Things didn’t go so well the first time Isidra “Izzy” Tovar enrolled in college.
“I practically failed everything,” she said. “I really didn’t want to do school, but my dad always wanted me to go and for us kids to finish school and do something with our lives.”
Once Tovar became a mother, she understood exactly how her father felt. So much so that she is on track to graduate in 2018 with a degree she is earning online — a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences (BAAS) from Lamar University. She will become the first person in her family to earn a college degree.
“To be able to show that to your kids “¦ you have to at least try,” Tovar said. “That’s my biggest motivation. I want to be able to push my son [Abraham] to go to school because I know how important it is now. If I don’t have a degree, how can I sit there and say, ‘You’re going to try.’ He kind of made me grow up a little bit.”
Tovar, 30, also hopes to earn a master’s degree and inspire her younger brother and older sister to return to school.
“I say, ‘You guys need to go back,'” Tovar said. “They make fun of me because I was never like that about school, but now I see that there are a lot of benefits to that degree. I had my baby, and I want to give him more. I want to show him you can do anything if you really want to do it, so I went back.”
Not Too Cool for School
Tovar began working in the counseling office at South Garland (Texas) High School after she spent several years as a manager in the restaurant industry.
“I enroll the kids and only see them for a little bit,” she said. “Going to school as an adult, I think they feel comfortable coming to me and saying, ‘Hey, I want to do this. Where should I start?’ Since I did it by myself and really didn’t get a lot of help, I’m able to sit down with them and say, ‘This is the way I did it. This is not the way you have to do it, but I found it a lot easier to do it this way.'”
Tovar’s job has also inspired her to work toward the goal of becoming an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher and, eventually, move on to become an academic counselor.
“I didn’t think I was going to like working at a school, but I really like the kids,” she said. “People tell me, ‘You want to teach high school for your first year? That’s crazy.’ I feel like that’s where I’m going to be more useful than anywhere else, with those older kids.
“I took a 10-year break. A lot of times when I talk to them, my goal is to help them get into college. Even if you start at a community college, start something. When you take that break, you won’t go back.”
Making up for Lost Time
In addition to the online courses at Lamar University, Tovar also completed online courses concurrently at Eastfield College in order to expedite her time to completion.
“I did 63 credit hours in a year,” Tovar said. “I just pushed. I told everyone that once I went back, I’m sprinting and trying to get this done. I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it, but the advisers told me if I was trying to get ahead, I could attend both schools. I didn’t even know it was possible.”
The flexibility the online format provides is the only way Tovar could balance school with a full-time job and being a mom.
“My husband [Eric] helps me out a lot,” she said. “I try to log in and do a little something every day. I try to work it out as much as possible. My son is two years old, so he’s very active and wants to go outside and play. I try to work on something — even if it’s just an hour a day, so on Saturdays I’m not just focused on schoolwork.”
Tovar has also enjoyed the considerable amount of support she has received from the university as she pursues her degree.
“I am very impressed with Lamar University,” Tovar said. “They will call and ask, ‘How’s it going? Is there anything we can do?’ I just felt comfortable asking questions. Lamar University has been really good to me. They have been very good at keeping track of me instead of the other way around.”
The Finish Line
As she gets closer to the completion of the online Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree, Tovar believes the online format makes higher education possible for most anybody.
“I really enjoy school, so I feel like if you go in there and try your hardest, it’s possible,” she said. “It’s hard. It’s not easy. There are days when I don’t go to bed until one in the morning, and then I have to get up and go to work.
“It’s definitely worth it — especially in this time when a lot of kids are going to school. They’re always going to hire someone with a degree if they’re standing next to someone without a degree.”
She is eagerly awaiting the day when she will walk across the graduation stage.
“All of the counselors I work with at school say, ‘When you graduate, we’ll have to go celebrate since we’ve seen you since you started. We’re going to throw a party,'” Tovar said. “My family and I are going to go to Beaumont for graduation. I definitely want to be there for the ceremony.”
More importantly, she wants her inspiration, Abraham, to see the reward for all of her hard work.
“When I walk across that stage, my son will remember it because he’ll be three,” Tovar said. “One of the things that makes me most excited is he will be there cheering his mommy on.”
Learn more about the Lamar University online BAAS program.