This grandmother of 11 may be among the oldest MBA students in the world.
Qadirah Bridgeman recently completed her MBA at the ripe young age of 59.
Almost 37 years ago, she graduated from Adelphi University with a B.S. in political studies. She also got a summer fellowship at Harvard.
Her dream was to continue her education, get into a top law school and become a lawyer.
But despite being a bright student, her plans to study further got stonewalled due to the challenges that came up unexpectedly in her life.
“I got pregnant and started my family,” she says now. “I realized how important it was for me to be there for them.”
After that, her life revolved around her 4 children. She home-schooled them, as she didn't want to compromise on their education, despite living in a small town with limited educational resources.
While Bridgeman was bringing up her kids, she was also working part-time in call centers. That offered her the flexibility to earn as well as continue teaching her children without breaks.
She eventually rose through the ranks as a senior expert and joined T-Mobile in 2005.
Her home-schooling system worked out well for her kids.
Her daughter Raabia did exceedingly well in studies - she completed high school by 14, got a good score in ACT and graduated with an associate’s degree in pre-law when she turned 18. She gives the entire credit to her mom.
Through all this, Bridgeman kept thinking about her stalled ambition to go for higher education.
Her parents and her siblings had a masters degree. She was the only one who didn't have one.
But over the years, her confidence had severely eroded.
It wasn't just the fear of heading back to school after such a long break.
There were other setbacks in her life, like the death of her son 5 years back, that shook her up.
When everything seemed to be going well, a shock like this pushed her back into a shell. Higher education went lower down in the list of priorities.
During a benefits fair organised by her employer, she learnt about the online MBA degree offered by Ashford University. She felt an advanced business degree would help her accelerate her career.
The tuition assistance program offered by her employer gave her the opportunity she was waiting for.
There wasn't anything stopping her now, and she knew that there be no looking back once she had set her mind on something.
So, after close to 4 long decades of putting her dreams on hold, she finally decided to take the plunge.
“I think the step toward education was a real confidence-booster. I walk with my chest higher,” says Bridgeman.
Her proud 81-year-old parents and her siblings were present at her graduation ceremony to applaud her achievement.
It's not just a feeling of pride, but also the inspiration and encouragement that's prodded her family members to do what they wanted to do.
Her husband came out of retirement to start a handyman business.
Her kids have decided to go back to college and complete new degrees.
Her daughter, Rabia, who had also put her education plans on hold to focus on her family has made up her mind to do what her mom did.
With Rabia heading to law school, her sister studying in medical school and her younger brother in surgical tech at Vanderbilt, Bridgeman has given herself and her family a solid foundation in education.
Brimming with confidence, Bridgeman says she's not done yet. She may consider another degree soon!
Source and Image credit: T-mobile