When Martha Ochoa made the three-day, three-night trip from Wilmington, Calif., to attend Sarah Lawrence College in August 2010, she had no idea that her arrival in New York would coincide with Hurricane Irene's. Fortunately for Martha, the transition to the classroom after a 27-year absence has been a much less harrowing experience.
Upon graduating with honors from Phineas Banning High School, Martha attended UCLA, where she majored in political science. However, during Martha's senior year of high school, her mother was diagnosed with cervical cancer, and when she passed away in June 1983, Martha dropped out of UCLA without finishing her degree.
Nevertheless, Martha says she has always been highly autodidactic and remained an omnivorous reader. Once her two children were adults, she enrolled in Los Angeles Harbor Community College and earned her associate's degree. Now, she wants to pursue a career in writing.
"I chose Sarah Lawrence College over UCLA because I believe Sarah Lawrence remains true to the ideals of the liberal arts," says Martha, who hopes to be the first student to come through the Center for Continuing Education and participate in The Oxford Program.
"While at Sarah Lawrence, I've enjoyed the students' enthusiasm and willingness to share their thoughts on their courses with me," she says. "I don't feel out of place or uncomfortable by the fact that I'm older. I was pleasantly surprised by the small classroom sizes and the fact that we sit at a round table. In 1982, I remember sitting on the auditorium steps among an ocean of students, trying desperately to hear a lecture; I felt very lonely and homesick in such a crowd."
That hasn't been the case at Sarah Lawrence.
According to Martha, completing her degree will serve as a testament not only to her hard work and perseverance but the professors involved in her academic life.