Like many Americans, Ruth Ann Dutton started college immediately after graduating from high school. Within two years, she received her associate degree in business management and administration, hoping to transfer to a four-year institution and completer her bachelor’s.
Then, life got in the way.
“I was able to find a job and start working,” Ruth Ann said. “I just kept telling myself, ‘I’ll go back next semester.'”
More than 20 years would pass before she actually would.
It wasn’t the piece of paper to hang on the wall or the promise of a higher salary that inspired Ruth Ann. Instead, it was the adoption of her son.
“When I adopted him, I knew I was going back to school, finishing my degree and offering stability for myself and my son.”
In 2013, while she was on vacation with her son in Savannah, she decided to stop by Savannah Technical College and learn more about their offerings. A few weeks later, they decided to move there.
The next semester, she finally went back.
Ruth Ann attended classes on campus and online, allowing her to earn her degree and take care of her son.
She would go on to complete her degree in paralegal studies at Savannah Tech and be named the school’s Student of the Year and a finalist for the Technical College System’s GOAL Award.
Ruth Ann credits a particular professor, Dr. Debra Geiger, for her success at Savannah Tech.
During her first day back to college, Ruth Ann remembers sitting in class, anxious about how the semester would unfold. It had been more than two decades since she was a student. She didn’t know exactly what to expect.
Then, Dr. Geiger called on her. She didn’t know it then, but this was the beginning of an incredible journey.
Dr. Geiger also served as Ruth Ann’s academic advisor. And she’s the one who nominated Ruth Ann for Student of the Year.
“Dr. Geiger was my rock,” Ruth Ann said. “If it was not for her calling on me during that first day, standing by me throughout this journey and believing in me enough to nominate me for Student of the Year, I never would have accomplished so much.”
“She saw something in me that I did not even know was there,” she said.
While at Savannah Tech, Ruth Ann interned for Georgia Legal Services. Today, she works there full-time as the pro bono and outreach coordinator.
Ruth Ann knew that returning to college would offer a better future for her and her son. It wouldn’t be easy, but it would be worth it.
What she didn’t know was how it would bring them even closer together, as they spent many evenings doing homework together and learning from each other.
“I’ve shown my 8-year-old son that it is never too late to go back to school,” Ruth Ann said. “Your dreams may sometimes take a little longer to unfold than you originally thought, but they can be achieved.”
Today, she notices the light in her son’s eyes when he tells others about his mom returning to school and earning her degree.
He’s certainly proud of his mom. Who wouldn’t be?