” I discovered AAUW in a newspaper article when I was 32 years old. The article was about a Saturday seminar that was being organized by the local AAUW branch. I knew nothing about the organization but the article included the words “AAUW promotes education for women and girls.” That’s what got my attention.
Now let me back up. A year earlier, when I was 31 years old, my husband died suddenly in a boating accident. The five of us left home as a family for a weekend in San Diego and the children and I returned alone. Needless to say we were devastated. I was told of his death in the hospital where he was taken after the accident. When the doctor told me that he didn’t make it, I became very weak and he sent me to an emergency room and ordered medication to calm me down. While I was in emergency, I asked a friend to call my mother and tell her what happened and ask her if she would please be at my home when I returned with the kids. She lived 30 miles away so she had to ask her neighbor to drive her. The car drive home from San Diego that day felt like it took forever, but it was such a relief to see my mother there when we walked in the door.
Kirk and I met in high school. He was 18 and I was 15. We married young and we started having children early in our marriage. At the time of his death we had three children and were living in our second home. Up to that point we shared the responsibilities of the home and children but now I felt that everything fell on my shoulders. Since I married young, I had never lived on my own or provided for myself. I was a stay-at-home mom for the first 10 years of our marriage and was on my second clerical job when he died. My skill set was limited since I only had a high school education and the job I had at the time was in Irvine which required a two and a half hour commute each day. I could feel the distance between me and my children every day I went to work. I knew that it was my responsibility to feed, clothe, and raise my three children alone and I remember telling people that the thought of it scared me to death. But I also knew that I couldn’t let my kids see the fear I carried as I felt that I needed to appear strong for them. I wanted them to feel secure and safe with me as their single parent. It was a very difficult time for me.
Around a year after his death, while the kids and I were still trying to figure things out, I realized that I had to make a change. The job I had was taking me nowhere and the commute was far too long. When Kirk was alive he worked evenings and I worked days so child care wasn’t an issue. Things had changed. Now I was alone and responsible for everyone and everything. So after giving it some thought, I decided to quit my job and go to school. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. But the decision was the easy part. I knew what I wanted to do but I didn’t know how to go about it. I had no family member or close friend who had an extended education so there was no one to ask for guidance. I had never even stepped on to a university campus in my life so the whole idea was intimidating.
As I mentioned earlier, I found an article in the local newspaper about a program AAUW had organized. It contained the words “AAUW supports education for women and girls” and since I was thinking about going to college and I’m a woman, I thought they might be able to help me. So I called the phone number in the article. The lady who answered was very friendly (probably the branch Program Chair) and asked me what my goals were. I told her my story and she immediately gave me a name and phone number for the re-entry director on the Cal Poly Pomona Campus. That information couldn’t have been more perfect. I called the director and she gave me instructions on how to get to the campus, how to park my car, and how to get to her office. We had a conversation about my background and what I wanted to do and she took out a tablet of admission forms and started asking me questions. Before I know it the form was filled out and we started talking about classes for my first quarter. She was helping me make this happen and I felt very good about it. Without that little bit of information that AAUW provided, I don’t know if I would have carried my goals forward. But I didn’t forget who steered me to the campus. The voice at the other end of the line recognized that I needed a nudge and she gave it to me. Later, when I realized this, I said to myself that when I was done doing whatever it was that I was going to do in life, I’d look at AAUW and what they did and see if I could help.
I attended Cal Poly Pomona and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with Minors in Marketing and Foreign Language. I also took equation classes and a PE class every quarter. After I graduated I worked as the Assistant to the Director of Computing and Telecommunications at a local college and then I spent 16 years as Executive Director of a local non-profit.
So here I am now, nearly 40 years later and a 9-year member of AAUW with two terms as Membership VP and I’m currently on my second two-year term as Ontario-Upland-Rancho Branch President. It’s been an interesting ride and AAUW was instrumental in getting me here. That’s why I joined AAUW.”
-OUR AAUW member