Vidalia Woman Finds Motivation, Second Chance by Coming Home
November 18, 2013 - Brianna Beal is, today, a driven young woman who knows her graduation date, her next city, her next college and her next degree.
Last year, she was depressed, homesick, skipping classes and on the verge of suspension.
“My mom always says, ‘Everything happens for a reason,’” said Beal.
Beal, a Vidalia native, graduated from high school in May 2012. As she neared graduation, she had planned her next steps: four years at Albany State majoring in forensic science and minoring in criminal justice. But on May 1—just over two weeks before her high school graduation day—her grandfather passed away.
“He was like my second dad,” said Beal. “He was my motivation. I wanted to graduate because he would be there. When he was gone, I lost all motivation.”
Shaken but still determined, she made the move to Albany and began adjusting to college life. Long walks between classes took some acclimation, as did the two-and-a-half-hour distance from home, but other parts of the college experience were as inviting as they were harmful.
“It was really different, I guess, because I’m not a partier, and that’s what they did there every night,” said Beal. “I didn’t have a lot of discipline when I was there. ‘I’ve got homework, but there’s a party tonight—I want to go to the party.’ I ended up calling my mom and saying, ‘It’s not going to work. You need to come get me or they’re going to put me out of school.’”
The distractions of college became too much. She found herself on academic probation and then withdrew from Albany State.
Beal returned to Vidalia in March 2013 and took comfort in what she had been missing: her family. However, even home had seen some changes in the eight months she had been gone.
“I did not realize [my parents] had so much on them, because my sister is autistic and my [great] grandpa was 99,” said Beal. “My parents were going to work and taking care of both my sister and grandpa.”
Beal began to help out around the house, attending her sister in the hours before her personal nurses would arrive and helping her great grandfather. Her interest in forensics persisted, though, and she began researching other academic options, one of which was Southeastern Technical College's Computer Information Systems (CIS) program.
“So, I thought, I can go to school and do computers, get a degree in that, and then go back and do computer forensics and tie it in,” said Beal. “That way, I’ll still be able to do both.”
Beal enrolled. After Albany State, she felt driven to prove herself, so she signed up for fall, spring and summer classes in CIS and became a work-study student while still caring for her sister and grandfather.
But in June, her grandfather's condition deteriorated. He began requiring near-constant care. Beal's parents wanted to adjust their own schedules, but she was determined to handle this and not let family crisis derail her life again.
“I was able to step in and say, 'Y’all go to work, I only have classes two days out of the week—I can be here,'” said Beal.
For three months, Beal was a full-time caretaker and student. She would complete the work for her online classes ahead of schedule, perform her work-study tasks, spend the rest of the day watching after her family, and use the night to prepare for the next day.
On September 16, Beal's grandfather passed away. She had been through this before, but that experience, coupled with a supportive family environment, had strengthened her.
“When he passed, I didn’t feel guilty,” said Beal. “I did what I could while he was here. It hurts that he’s gone, but I know I did what I could. I have a peace about it.”
That peace allowed her to keep her pace in school. Through it all, Beal stayed focused on her work and her instructors took notice.
“When she lost her grandfather, she only missed part of one course while maintaining a genuine smile,” said Stephanie Moye, CIS instructor at STC. “She is an excellent student.”
Now, Beal is on-course to complete the diploma program, move to Atlanta and continue studying CIS. Her mother told her that everything happens for a reason, and Beal has found that her reason was family. Surrounded by loved ones, Beal found a resolve she didn't know she had.
“I’ve never been this focused,” said Beal. “I think I have a different drive now. When I went to Albany, I just wanted to go, I wanted to get out of the house, I was tired of my parents. Then I went and I wanted to go home. But I have a drive now.
“I’m ready to graduate knowing that I have achieved all my goals."
For more information on technical education opportunities, visit www.southeasterntech.edu or call 912-538-3100 or 478-289-2200.