“When I first arrived on campus everyone would ask ‘Where’s your daughter?’ Kathy Allen recalls. “But once they realized I was the student, they supported and encouraged me every step of the way.”
Allen, ’20 always wanted to attend college, but her parents felt otherwise. Getting a job immediately after graduating high school was a better option, financially, so she put aside her desire for higher education, and began working in a sheriff’s department in her home state of California. She retired 25 years later.
As a retiree, a mother to a 33-year-old daughter and a grandmother of two, she was free to do what she pleased. She decided it was time to make her college dreams come true and began attending a community college in California. But it was meeting Bennett admissions counselor Jasmine Faison at a college fair that set her on a new path.
“I explained my desire to earn my degree to Jasmine and she asked if I wanted to start at Bennett for the upcoming fall semester,” Allen says. Though she had never heard of Bennett College and didn’t know much about North Carolina, she said yes.
She was excited to begin. Her family and friends weren’t so supportive.
“Some of my friends became ‘lil haters,’ poking fun at my wishes and at North Carolina.” Eventually even Allen’s daughter stopped communicating with her.
“My daughter wanted me to stay in California and be a stereotypical retired grandmother, but that isn’t who I am and wasn’t what I was going to do,” she says. She made her decision, taking the steps she needed to take, “one foot in front of the other.”
“In just a few weeks I had found a place to stay, packed my bags, sold all of my furniture and came here to start my junior year,” she says.
North Carolina was a different world for Allen. “I remember getting off the plane and thinking ‘Wow, it’s so green!’ I was so eager to see and experience more.”
As she tried to adjust to her new environment, insecurity set in. “I had left everything I knew and was very lonely,” Allen says. “It made me question my decision to leave California.” Things began to improve for her as made connections and found a support system at Bennett.
“A professor from California would look out for me by sharing some of the natural and cultural differences between the two states.” Her fellow Belles lent a helping hand, too.
“They were so respectful referring to me as ‘Ms. Kathy’ and ‘Ma’am’, showing me how to use technology and carrying my books when I hurt my foot. It’s truly the little things that matter.”
An integral part of her support system is Dr. Annette Wilson, chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. “Dr. Wilson has changed my life since I started here. She has stayed engaged with me and pointed out strengths and capabilities I never saw in myself.”
Dr. Wilson says that that Allen “always strives to do things right” and that their interaction has helped her renew her instructional connections with adult learners.
Entering her final year at Bennett, Allen has found direction for the next phase of her life. “I knew I wanted a degree, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it,” she explained. “Last semester, God put attending divinity school in my spirit—I am going to be a chaplain!”
The choice of career seemed ironic to her: “Many years ago, when I worked at the sheriff’s department, the chaplain came through and I had the fleeting thought ‘That seems like a cool job’ but I never would’ve thought that could actually be me!”
She describes how thankful she is for Bennett changing her life. “I truly feel that Bennett has helped the girl in me find the woman I was meant to be, and I have enjoyed every step of the process!”
As her time at Bennett comes to an end, she wants her fellow Belles know the sky’s the limit. Her advice: “Go after your dream and your journey, no matter the haters. You can be and do anything!”