Parents’ Continuing Education Is an Investment for a Busy Family

June 29, 2022 By Caroline Newman, news@virginia.edu Caroline Newman, news@virginia.edu

It was just before 6 p.m. when Robert Edmonds burst through his front door after a full day at work. He hoped there would be a dinner plate for him on the counter as he dashed to his basement office and a Zoom class that would keep him tied up until 10 p.m.

Claudia Edmonds moved in the opposite direction. She was heading out for an overnight shift as a surgical technician at UVA Health.

Somewhere in the seams of this harried hand-off were five kids in the house, from 2 to almost 19.

Add to this chaos two more challenges: Robert and Claudia Edmonds are each pursing degrees at the University of Virginia’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies in part-time, online programs designed for working adults.

“It’s stressful sometimes, the way things are now,” Robert said. “But fortunately, you know, all the pieces seem to come together. Even if they sometimes come together at the last minute.”

The Edmonds – currently of Gordonsville, but soon moving to Charlottesville – are like many students at the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. They work full time. They have a houseful of kids. And they have all the obligations that come with that life, like managing soccer practice, family dinners and bedtime routines.

But if they can still find time to pursue degrees, Robert said, then anyone can.

“The nice thing about this program is that it is very flexible,” Robert said. “We have classes in the evening, and almost all of them we can do from home. We can both still work full-time jobs and maintain our lifestyle while working towards our degrees.”

A woman in a computer chair holds a small child in her lap
Claudia Edmonds juggles her remote classes with her full-time job, and all the other duties parents typically have, like wiping tears. (Photo by Erin Edgerton, University Communications)

Claudia said the kids see the sacrifices as an investment in the family.

“The kids know they can have more things, they’ll be able to enjoy more vacations,” Claudia said.

For both Robert and Claudia, a college degree opens new possibilities at work and increased earnings potential. And both their employers have programs to help defray the costs of their continuing education.

Robert is enrolled in the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies program. He said completing his bachelor’s degree has always been a goal. He attended a community college right out of high school but left after one semester.

He began working full-time instead and built a career leading to his current position as an operations director for an insurance and financial services company. His UVA degree, Edmonds said, will help him take his career to the next level.

“At this point, my plan is to continue to advance in the field that I am in,” he said. “I feel like I have a lot of opportunity.”

Claudia is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in health care.

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“Of my family, I was the first to finish high school and get an associate’s degree,” she said. “Going to school has always been something that I wanted to do.”

Claudia said the School of Continuing and Professional Studies coursework has helped her explore a long-held interest in health care, and to look for ways to implement what she is learning in classes like “Service Excellence in Health Care” in her current role at UVA.

“I really enjoyed that class, because it gave me a good perspective on how employees need to be treated in the workforce,” she said.

Robert’s favorite courses included those focused on commercial law and the criminal justice system.

“The commercial law course helped open my mind to understanding a lot of the laws, policies and regulations that govern employment, in general, and it was really relatable to the professional world,” he said. “I did not know a lot about the criminal justice system, and I probably still have a lot to learn, but it helped me gain perspective, especially in why certain rulings go the way they do. It really broadened my knowledge base.”

A woman studies at a desk while a young girl chases her little sister across the living room
Savanna, 2, escapes from Sofia, 9, as Robert and Claudia Edmonds prepare for Zoom classes. Because Claudia sometimes works nights while Robert works days, they count on the older kids to help with the younger ones. (Photo by Erin Edgerton, University Communications)

Pursuing their degrees together, each spouse said they had learned something about the other’s field and interests.

“A lot of what my wife is learning about is management, and I oversee 30 employees in my job,” Robert said. “It was really helpful to hear what she was learning about management styles and service-driven perspectives.”

For her part, Claudia said her husband’s financial acumen came in handy during her health-care economics course.

“That was something I could go to him about, that we could work through,” she said.

The only downside, both parents said, is that they don’t have as much free time as they did before pursuing their degrees. If they are not doing something for work or with their kids, they know they need to be working on school.

“There is always a paper to write or discussion responses to post,” Claudia said. “But it has not been that bad.”

The key, they said, is commitment and cooperation.

“Being on the same page is the most important part,” Robert said. “There are so many moving parts, with the kids, school and our jobs. If we were not on the same page, it would not work well. Our days are pretty regimented and we have to be flexible with each other and understand that. You have to make sure you have each other’s support.”

A woman leans over her laptop while examining a document
Claudia Edmonds is a surgical technician at UVA Health. She’s also pursuing a bachelor’s degree in health care through the University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. (Photo by Erin Edgerton, University Communications)

One thing that helps is Claudia’s expectation for the kids. She is from El Salvador, a country where, she said, it is common for even young children to pitch in for a family’s common good. On a recent family trip to her home country, she said her kids saw how important it is for every member of a family to pull together.

“That really had an impact on them,” she said.

So that means on some nights, 18-year-old Joselin handles dinner and bedtimes for the youngest ones. The middle kids – Robbie, 12; and Sofia, 9 – handle most of their homework themselves and pitch in with chores. And that leaves their parents the freedom to hold down their jobs and keep up with classwork.

“They’re kids, but they are really, really supportive beyond what most kids would be,” Robert said.

Robert hopes that if anyone takes a lesson from their story, it should be that anything is possible if you want it bad enough.

“I think you have to figure out what is important to you, and whatever it is, you have to go after it,” he said. “You just have to be disciplined and consistent.”

Media Contact

Rob Seal

Director of Marketing and Communications School of Continuing and Professional Studies