Winner Announced: Tell Us About Your Nontraditional Education

We're happy to announce the winner of our contest in which we asked you to send us your stories of your nontraditional paths to educational success.

We're happy to announce the winner of our contest, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in which we asked you to send us your stories of your nontraditional paths to educational success.

The winner is Anthony Armstrong, whose UPS-ad inspired video is below. His submission was the most ingenious, and also quite touching. Please watch:


We would also like to highlight two runners up.

Sheila Burson, who didn't attend school as a young adult and then was in a serious car accident, managed to go back to school and earn a degree:

However, a wonderful speech therapist suggested I try one class at the local community college (Butte College in Oroville, California), a class on brain injury and accommodations for my disabilities. It was a giant leap of faith, but I followed her suggestion and a whole world opened for me. My permanent disabilities include short term memory loss, trouble thinking of words (I nearly always can think of the definition, but not the word itself), and right side neglect (this means that while I can see out of my eye, the “message” of what I am reading on that side does not reach the brain – in other words, I can only read the left side of a page).

With accommodations, I discovered I could go back to school—which I did at 55 years old. I graduated last spring from Butte College with an AA and an AS degree – and a 4.0 grade average.


Read Burson's full submission on the fifth slide, here.

The other runner up is Paul Cataline, who, after leaving college the first time, went back and became an educator himself, after much emotional hardship:

During the third week of class, she returned a paper to me with a single comment on it. Don’t give up. I stayed after the next class to ask her about her comment. Was there a problem with my work? She smiled and assured me that there was no problem with my work. She told me that in fact I was one of the best writers in her class. When I asked her about her comment on my paper, she just smiled and said that I looked tired and like I could use some encouragement. I thanked her and proceeded to share my entire story with her, ending with the fact that my intention was to eventually return to Hartwick and finish what I had started five years prior. At the end of it she simply smiled and said, “Well, then, it appears we have our work cut out for us.” I thanked her for listening to me and excused myself. In retrospect I think I may have been feeling a little embarrassed for being so open. As I was leaving, though, she stopped me. “If you noticed,” she said, “I used the word we. You are not in this alone; don’t forget that.”


Read Cataline's full submission on the fourth slide, here.

You can see the top five submissions here. Sadly, we didn't have room to post every single submission, but we are grateful to everyone who sent in their stories. They are all moving and poignant. Thank you for sharing and keep up the good work.

via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

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