A year away from graduating with an Administrative Assistant A.A.S. degree from Northwest Technical College, Shannon Anttila has her eyes on the prize. After a nearly 15-year hiatus from education, the 32-year-old Deer River resident approaches her online coursework as though it’s her full-time career – a commitment she anticipates will pay off in greater security for herself and her family.
Currently working as an evening office cleaner, Anttila graduated from Deer River High School in 2001. After one too many layoffs, she designed to seize control of her career destiny.
“I had worked for a couple companies that I enjoyed, only to find out later that hours were cut or jobs were made obsolete,” she said. “I felt that by obtaining a degree, I would have more control of my future, and not have to worry as much about having to find another job again if layoffs or job cuts were to happen.”
Anttila said returning to school was eye-opening in more than one way.
“I seem to have more patience – and persistence – than in my teens. Instead of saying, ‘as long as I get a D in this class, I’ll pass,’ I’m instead pushing myself for that A in every course.”
While NTC’s proximity to her home in Deer River, about an hour’s drive away, initially drew Anttila’s interest in the college, it was her ability to pursue a degree completely online that clinched her decision to attend.
“I am a married mom of two boys and I also work part-time, so I don’t have time to attend campus classes,” she said. “Because of the convenience of working on assignments at any time of the day, online was the only way I was able to pursue a degree.”
Anttila said her professors and advisors have done an outstanding job at keeping her motivated and on track.
“They have been a wealth of knowledge, and I presume the reason is from firsthand experience. Nancy Poxleitner, my advisor, has been the greatest inspiration for me. She was picked perfectly for the position that she holds, and the professionalism she shows in all her courses has given me something to strive for in my career.”
Anttila is counting on the sacrifices paying off. She expects to graduate in May 2016, and hopes to find work in a state or county office.
“I’m keeping an open mind to whatever position I would be qualified for,” she says. “This career seems to have the best outlook for my area as far as pay and retirement benefits.”
When she completes her degree, Anttila plans to make the one-hour drive to Bemidji to walk in her class’ graduation ceremony. She’ll do it not only to celebrate her own achievement, but also to set her own children down the path to higher education, as well.
“My oldest is too young to fully understand what I’m doing,” she says. “Because of this, I have made the promise to myself that we will attend my graduation, and I will walk down to receive my diploma. I feel that going to that event and watching me receive my diploma will instill in him the importance of going to college.”