November 7, 2019

Family First

Monica Bailey and her two daughters are navigating college the same way they’ve done life – together.

Monica, Ricki and Allison Bailey

Monica Bailey and her two daughters, Allison and Ricki, are no strangers to hard times. The three have an iron-clad bond that began when the girls were young and Monica was courageously forging ahead as a single mom with three young children.

“It was tough sometimes,” said Monica. “But, the key was love. Unconditional love. My kids have always known they could come to me with anything and we’d get through it together.”

And, ‘together’ is exactly how the three are making it through college. When Allison, the youngest child, graduated from high school, she knew exactly what she wanted to do next. Without hesitation, she applied to UW-Superior and set her sights on a bachelor’s degree. But, she also knew she wanted her sister Ricki to come with her.

“I took two gap years after high school because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” said Ricki. “I also struggled with anxiety and confidence. So, when Allison decided to go to UWS and asked me to come with her, I was really tempted, but still a little unsure.”

All for one, one for all

As the girls discussed their plans, Monica was working as a cook in a cafeteria, struggling to make ends meet for her and her family. “I was in a dead-end job, cooking, with no opportunities for advancement,” she said. “I started to wonder, if my girls can go to college, could I possibly do it, too?”

Freshman orientation day came along and Monica and Ricki went with Allison to support her, but with no plans to enroll. “Everyone was so friendly and helpful,” she said. “Before we knew it, Ricki and I were  filling out paperwork to go, too.”

“Mom kept asking if we were sure we wanted her with us at college,” said Allison. “We didn’t hesitate. We said, ‘Absolutely! It will be awesome!’”

Pursuing more than just a job

Now in their junior year, all three have chosen majors related to counseling and psychology. Monica is an art therapy major, Ricki is a psychology major and Allison is majoring in psychology with a criminal justice minor. They say it’s no coincidence that they’ve chosen similar career paths.

“We’ve been through a lot together,” said Monica. “We’re all survivors of domestic violence and emotional abuse. We struggled and learned things that we now want to take to other people to help them. We’re overcomers who want to break the cycle and do something meaningful with our lives.”

People at UWS have become used to seeing the three Bailey women together. They have had many classes together, they study together, and commute to and from campus together.

Allison said, “Sometimes we’re asked if it’s weird to be going to school with our mom and we just say, ‘No, not at all! Why would it be?’”

The three hold each other accountable and look out for one another, making sure each gets up on time in the morning, gets their homework done and gets good grades. But, they admit it’s not always smooth sailing.

“Sometimes we drive each other crazy,” said Allison. “Ricki and Mom are perfectionists. I’m more laid back. We can drive each other nuts, but at the same time, we have each other’s backs.”

Russell, the girls’ brother, also has their back, often stepping in to offer support and encouragement when needed. “We are so grateful to him and to all our friends and significant others for standing by us and believing in us,” said Monica.

All in all, the three say going to college together has been the best experience of their lives and they couldn’t imagine going anywhere other than UWS.

“UWS is such a supportive community,” said Monica. “Professors get to know you and take a personal interest in your success. One of my professors even walked the indoor track and talked with me one day when I was having a hard time. I’ll never forget that.”

“We have a dream of crossing the graduation stage together hand-in-hand, entering into a new chapter of our life. That’s what motivates us,” said Monica. “We’ll be the first in our family to earn bachelor’s degrees, and we don’t want to stop there. We all plan to go on to graduate school.”

Forty-two percent of UW-Superior students are considered nontraditional, which means they have at least one of the following characteristics: veteran, parent or 25 years of age or older. Forty-six percent of undergraduates are first-generation university students. The Veteran and Nontraditional Student Center is committed to assisting these students throughout their academic journey, providing co-curricular programs, events and services that enhance the student experience and help ensure success.



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