Sherrill came to Nashua Community College on a whim in August of 2022. “I was driving down the street and saw a sign that said ‘sign up’ so I came in and signed up,” she said, speaking in March 2024.

“I had been in a four-month fog since my husband died that March. I was out seeing a friend, and driving back when I saw the sign.”

At NCC, Sherrill met Jayleen Aleman, Adult Education Coordinator, and the two have been working together ever since.

“It’s like you came here on a mission, and you haven’t looked back. Anything that has tried to be in your way, you’ve knocked it down,” said Jayleen.

“Any problems I’ve had so far, I’ve been able to get help,” said Sherrill. She started with some technical difficulties, like getting used to the student platforms and technology during orientation, but she was able to work through it. “And I’ve had lots of trips to the advisor’s office. I haven’t met anybody here I haven’t appreciated – from signing up my first day, to the kid who says ‘hi’ to me at the security window when I walk in; everyone has been terrific.”

This is Sherrill’s return to college after taking classes about 30 years ago. “Somewhere along the line in the 90s, I was working and going to school at the same time. I wanted to be an engineer, I changed it to a paraprofessional, then to business. Then I got laid off, had a family, and college got put aside. And after that 4-month fog in March 2022, I thought ‘what about me’? It’s time to finish what I started. My husband would be so proud.”

Her two kids are grown, and she’s now thinking about all the things she wants to learn. 

“I have a lot I want to do and see and know. I’ve learned how to be more courageous, and less afraid to go out and get what I want and need. Which a lot of older people don’t have, or don’t have the option.”

Sherrill chose the general education associate degree pathway at NCC. “The benefit of general education is that there’s a lot I want to try, and see what I’m good at.”

She used her American Sign Language class as an example, “I’ll never be a sign language interpreter, but now when I see signing on TV; I can understand a portion of it. I’ve learned a lot.”

So far, she’s signed up for a part-time class schedule each semester. “This is my third year, and I could have taken more classes in a semester, but I wanted to slow it down, and it was easier financially. And I got some scholarships.”

She’s taken classes in fall, spring, and summer – including an intensive 2-week summer class in public speaking. “I belong to Grange Services for the State of New Hampshire, and every year I have to give a report. After the public speaking class, I went in and I was confident, and I did the report in front of over 100 people. My public speaking experience was something that I didn’t realize I needed, but it was the best benefit I ever got.”

Sherrill’s also participated in the campus literary magazine, “Windows,” and wrote a poem for Grange that ran in the magazine.

When asked about what it’s like to return to college later in life, she said “I go into a classroom, and I am the oldest person in the room. So, when a professor is talking about history, they talk about whether anyone remembers the 1970s – none of them were born yet.”

However, she’s built a rapport with classmates. “Working in environmental science and earth science class, you work with a lab partner, and that was a good start for me. The interaction was harder in the beginning, but it’s a 100% better now.”

The average student age at NCC is 23, although students of all ages enroll in classes and training pathways.

“I was in the cafeteria today and looking at all the people in the room, and everybody’s different. And different is good. They’re all coming from a different place, and they’re all here for different reasons. MY reason for being here is to finish what I started because I’m not a quitter.”

While she’s set to graduate in May 2024 with her general studies associate degree, Sherrill’s not done with school. “I have been excited to learn all that I’ve learned, and each professor I had as a student gave me something I didn’t know I needed.”

Next, she wants to take photography for fun. “I’ve already taken graphic design and it felt so good and energizing. The professor, Professor (Rick) Freed, encouraged me to go on and now I want to take photography. There’s a lot I’m interested in. Do I want to stop? No.”

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