EWL STAR Jessica Nakos
It’s Never Too Late to Fulfill Your Childhood Dreams
By Bette Price
Graduated, December 2014
Texas Woman’s University
Degree: Occupational Therapy/Psychology
EWL being there to provide not only financial assistance, but also emotional and psychological support and mentoring through a lot of tough transitions, is a wonderful thing to have.”
Jessica Nakos always knew that she wanted to teach, but for many years she lacked the confidence to pursue her dreams. “I grew up with an abusive father and had a lot of negative relationships before I was fortunate enough to meet and marry my current husband,” Jessica explains. Without that confidence it was difficult for Jessica to see accomplishing the future she dreamed of.
After a divorce and finding herself the single parent of three children, Jessica worked multiple jobs for eight years just to try to make ends meet. She describes them as “all jobs you can work without a degree.” Jobs like customer service for a bank, an administrative assistant and even selling cars at CarMax. She also spent one year without her kids. “They were with their dad so I could work multiple jobs and save up money so I could get an apartment and they could come back and live with me in Dallas,” she explained. Somehow she made it through those difficult years and eventually met a man to whom she later married.
Once Jessica remarried she was able to enroll in college. But things weren’t easy. “I was in school fulltime and my husband and I were newly married,” she said. “Together the two of us had five children.” Jessica had two daughters and a son from her previous marriage and her husband had two daughters from his previous marriage. It wasn’t always easy juggling a blended family. “My husband was the only one working so it was kind of a very tough situation for us.”
With Jessica now enrolled in college, the family moved to Denton and looked for a home close enough to schools that the children could walk to school. “We didn’t have enough vehicles for everybody and my husband needed the car to get to work. I had to ride my bike to school.” It was during this period of time that Jessica applied for an EWL scholarship and received it.
“It [the scholarship] was fantastic,” she says. “Obviously it helped me somewhat financially, but it wasn’t just the financial aspect. It was being paired with a mentor and having a group of people who understood your history, your struggles and challenges and appreciated that and celebrated that and helped you along the way and gave you confidence.
“I have a very interesting back story history,” she adds, referring to her difficult childhood, being raised with an abusive father. “It doesn’t necessarily come out during the time period that I got the scholarship, but a lot of it impacted my applying for that scholarship and trying to get some support going into an educational process that I wasn’t sure about and didn’t have the confidence in myself to do.”
Jessica says that being associated with EWL while she was working towards her bachelors degree in Occupational Therapy/Psychology, gave her a sense of community that she didn’t have in other ways—particularly being a non-traditional student. “It gave me a group of people that I could go to, that I knew were there for me and that supported me. It gave me a mentor that connected with me and gave me encouragement and provided a sounding board to talk about struggles. I feel like it provided a lot of support for me when I needed it and gave me confidence in myself. It allowed me to move into this masters program and be obviously very successful in that program as well.”
Masters program? Yes, that’s right. After completing her bachelors, Jessica went on to not only graduate from a masters program but she is currently enrolled in a PhD program that is a distance program located in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Being a distance program she is able to work fulltime as well. And just three week prior to this interview Jessica’s all-time dream of teaching was fulfilled when she was accepted into a faculty position at the University of St. Augustine in south Austin, Texas. “So, I just transitioned from an occupational therapy clinical job into the occupational therapy academic faculty,” she said with great delight.
With Jessica’s three children now all grown and in their 20’s and her two step-children visiting during holidays and with them during the summer, she and her husband have moved to the small rural town of Bertram, about an hour outside of Austin. Jessica says it is a commute but that seems to please her just fine. With all Jessica’s success it is clear to see that being a non-traditionally aged student was not a detriment to her accomplishing her childhood dream. And she credits EWL with playing an integral part in the process.
“Everybody has their own stories; everybody comes with their own baggage,” she states. “You might not know what that story or baggage are, but having organizations like EWL to be there to provide not only financial assistance, but also emotional and psychological support and mentoring through a lot of tough transitions, is a wonderful thing to have.”
It’s clear that Jessica Nakos is living proof that it’s never to late to pursue your childhood dreams. You just have to do it!