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Wilton Mom Seeks Degree After 'Life Happened'

Crystal Barbier's 12-year-old daughter Taj is already starting to think about college. The family now jokes, who will graduate first?

“Education is something that I have always preached to my children. I pretty much had to go back in order to keep making my point,” Barbier said, seated in her Wilton home. Taj and her younger brother, Marcus, kept to themselves in other rooms while mom talked about going back to school.

Barbier is finishing her first semester in the University of Bridgeport's IDEAL program. She's going for a degree in business administration.

Like many people, “life happened” to Barbier and kept her college dreams at bay. She started working almost immediately out of high school for the telephone company. The company offered tuition reimbursement, but over the 10 years of employment she never took advantage of it.

“It was just very difficult to be married with children and working a demanding full-time job,” said Barbier.

Now she is a junior tax accountant with another company. She started as a receptionist but was able to grow with the company. Her new position affords her the time to take a few evening courses.

The IDEAL program courses are full of people in similar situations as Barbier's. She said being surrounded by others who are coming back for their degrees after “life happened” is encouraging. The accelerated courses and flexible scheduling also help make the dream of a degree a reality.

For Barbier, one of the most inspirational moments was getting her student identification card. “I was so excited. I was like, 'I'm a real university student.' I came home and told the kids, 'Look at my ID!'” said Barbier.

Family support has also played an important part in Barbier's return to school. Relatives and friends have helped with watching the kids and making sure all day-to-day bases are covered.

Though there is plenty of work involved with going back for her degree, Barbier said she loves the experience. Going for her degree has reinvigorated her with a sense of youth. “I'm older, but still a big kid, too. This is fun!” she said.

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