Simmons Perseveres, Earns College Degree

Photo of Delores Simmons

Delores Simmons of Sikeston, Mo., has persevered through demanding circumstances to recieve her degree from Southeast Missouri State University in December 2005.

SIKESTON, Mo., Jan. 10, 2006 — In anticipation of her recent graduation day, Delores Simmons of Sikeston, Mo., was proud that her mother would see the first of her 12 children graduate from college. Simmons also thanked God for providing the inner strength and physical stamina to get her where she is today.

“There was a time when I had neither,” she says. “You see, I am a 10-year recovering addict.” As a young teenager, Simmons said she found herself involved in a lifestyle that is contradictory to what she now believes. She lived in a way she knew was detrimental to herself and her children, but it took hitting rock bottom before she was forced to take control again.  Simmons says, “I wasn’t raised in a religious environment, but I turned to God when there was no one left to turn to.  After being introduced to Him, I found the willpower to recover from my addiction.”   She says she began her recovery by setting goals — to own a home before she turned 30 and to enroll in college 10 years after graduating from high school.   Her decision to get a college education, she says, was also an effort to make a positive impact on her children while preparing for the future.

“It’s challenging working full-time and going to college, but that’s what it takes sometimes to make a better life for your family,” says Simmons.

She said she preferred working nights so she could spend more time with her children. Both are straight A students, and she’s tried to instill in them the idea of not settling for less than their best.

Both of her children are excited about attending college themselves as Simmons mentors them and their friends.  She stresses the importance of investing time in their education early on instead of waiting until it becomes more difficult.

Since the family’s weekdays are filled with school, homework and work, the weekends have been all about fun like going to a movie, eating out and shopping. After persevering for five and a half years, Simmons finished her last semester in December by taking 18 credit hours at the main Southeast campus. However, she credits her success to a great start at the Sikeston Area Higher Education Center (SAHEC). Her first college experience was on the Southeast campus, and she describes it as a culture shock. 

“I wasn’t comfortable with the large classroom size, and I didn’t spend enough time on campus to make friends. So, I felt alone,” she said.

 Then, after dropping out and skipping a year, she realized how important it was that her two children not remember her as a quitter.

Simmons talked with her advisor, and he suggested she try attending SAHEC.

She says, “I wish I could have taken all my courses at SAHEC, but being able to complete over two years of understudies there has been a great advantage.”

“SAHEC offers a smaller campus and class size that result in more personal time with instructors and closer relationships with the student body,” Simmons says.

She advises new students to seriously consider starting at SAHEC because it makes the transition to the main campus much easier.

Being at SAHEC also has allowed her to earn scholarships and receive a Rotary Club Grant to use along with her student loans in financing her education.  In appreciation, Simmons strives to connect future Southeast students with the right people at SAHEC to help with financial aid and career decisions.

When getting started, some students ask her questions about the courses they select, and she’s more than happy to oblige.  They also come to her for reassurance about going back to school after so many years, something she wishes she hadn’t waited so long to do.  This is all in keeping with her attitude of “what can I offer to help others improve themselves?”  Simmons says, “It’s been another goal of mine to try and inspire others that have struggled as I have to see they can achieve too.”

As a mother, she isn’t proud of the poor decisions and actions she made when she was younger, but she isn’t ashamed to tell about it either.  Her children are aware of her past, and she’s not afraid to lay it on the table for all to know, she says. So, she talks to others about her recovery and about her success at SAHEC.

“It was hard at first, but now I’m compelled to tell.  I believe my experiences can be used as a testimony to other addicts that they can do something productive with their life, and it’s never too late to begin,” she says. 

Simmons chose to major in communications studies because she loves working with people and interacting with them.  Although she said she enjoys her current job working with mentally challenged individuals, she also realizes the limitations of expanding her capabilities. She said she’s looking forward to having the chance to work at her potential with the Department of Mental Health while providing better for her family.

Simmons graduated from Southeast Missouri State University Dec. 17 with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and a minor in developmental psychology.