Living the Dream: UW Degree Leads to Special Job

Grace Ingram

grace ingramGrace Ingram knew what she wanted to do, and where she wanted to do it. The only thing standing between her and her career goal was a bachelor's degree.

"I was very interested in working at El Centro de la Raza," Grace said. But the job she wanted at the Seattle nonprofit required a four-year degree.

Grace tried to finish her bachelor's through a couple other programs but she said they were not "good fits." Then she discovered the online Early Childhood & Family Studies program (now known as the Early Care & Education program).

"It was perfect for me, because I had the ability to complete my degree at a highly respected educational institution and I could do it online," said Grace, who graduated in 2015. "Finishing my degree at the UW was a dream come true."

Here Grace discusses her experience in the program and how earning a UW degree has helped her accomplish both professional and personal goals. 


Can you tell us about your current job and why you wanted to work there? 

I'm working as a family support specialist at El Centro de la Raza in Seattle. I enroll families, do a lot of family support and provide service referrals for well-child exams, dental care, healthy parents programs, food banks and nutritious meals. I really enjoy that kind of work.

One reason I wanted to work at El Centro de la Raza was because of their social justice work. They care a lot about the community and they welcome everyone, regardless of race or religion or nationality. I think that's a beautiful thing. I've always searched for a place like that and I feel like I've found it.

Why did you decide to enroll in this program?

I really needed to finish my degree and the opportunity came up for the early childhood education program from the University of Washington. It combined both things that I really love and am passionate about, which are education and supporting families. It was an outstanding opportunity.

And I lived in Bremerton. Because I had the ability to do the program online, it was more of a possibility that I could accomplish the goal.

How did earning your bachelor's degree help you in your career?

If it wasn't for my degree I wouldn't be able to do my job, because having this position requires a bachelor's degree. I had to submit my transcripts and prove that I had it.

Why was completing your degree important on a personal level?

It had been a dream of mine to complete my bachelor's degree, but it's not an easy thing to do when you have children — I have four kids. When I was young, it wasn't something that I thought was going to be in my future. My mother was disabled and there weren't a lot of resources. I started thinking, I'll never be able to do this, so I'm not even going to try.

Then when I was older, I started thinking, Wait a minute. I've always loved school. I'm not going to give up on it. That's something I wanted to teach my kids, that you can change your life and this is how you do it. They said, "Hey, Mom's taking college courses, so it's possible and I can do it, too."

What were your favorite things about the program?

My academic advisor was awesome. She really encouraged me along the way, the whole two years. I had different challenges going on personally — four kids, working full-time. She would say, "Let me know if there's anything I can do to help you. I'll reach out to the instructors and see what I can do." She was very supportive and that helped me get through it.

I would also say the communication between all the instructors working as a team was great. The whole program team working together to support students and be flexible. All of them helped me to finish, and I was able to walk across the stage and get my diploma.

Read more about Grace's story on the UW Continuum College website.

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