Twelve years to a degree

The story of one student's journey to an AA degree, highlighting the variety of challenges to completion a student can face.

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James Normil had been working towards his college degree, in one way or another, for 12 years. Though he’s been a student at Bunker Hill Community College, Cambridge College and UMass-Boston in the last decade, he never earned a diploma.

For James, life – a wedding, a baby and a second job to meet the needs of his growing family – required a few stops and starts in his education, but traditional programs wouldn’t allow it. As a result, he accumulated more than $20,000 in student loan debt, with credits trapped in three different schools, but no diploma to show for it.

For more about how James earned his AA and the unique program in Boston that supported him (and over 100 other non-traditional students), check out this interview:

[Optional] Synthesize a little! In one sentence, describe what you learned from your empathy exercises or analogous research. (Ex: Good advisors make a difference.)

A personal connection, being known by someone who cares for you and your success, matters. Such connections inspire, provide energy, and can enable students to find their own solutions.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Lisa Yokana

Hi Steve:
Loved this. My niece was a Match Corps person and had an amazing experience! And my daughter is on year two of Teach For America. I'd love to work together as the challenge continues!

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Hi Lisa

Thanks for the positive feedback and offer to help. Our team, which includes Bob Hill (the coach in the article), has been working on this idea for awhile, and so have a lot of our thinking fleshed out. But we would appreciate your fresh perspective/thinking, if you want to join in. If you want to work on an idea that is in a more formative  stage, we also understand that. 

All the best


Photo of Lisa Yokana

Happy to help in any capacity!

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