Life is crazy enough even when things are “normal” for Kathleen Santana-Colon. If you include moving into a new house, having a son graduate from boot camp, and starting summer classes, it can be downright chaotic. Even her course of study is impressive: she is a dual major in Business Management and Human Resource Management with a minor in Theology. However, expecting to graduate next summer, Santana-Colon is plowing right along and surprised at how fast it is going. She is taking two summer classes, Theology and Philosophy.
Santana-Colon works in Information Technology Resources and Support at Camilla Hall, the retirement community for the IHM Sisters, and her husband Ray works at Immaculata in the Facilities Department. They have three boys (the oldest is 20 and a junior in college; the middle son is 19 and just finished basic training for the U.S. Marine Corp; and the youngest is 17 and entering his senior year of high school).
The daily routines of adult undergraduates will differ widely, given the varying situations they face. For Santana-Colon, her days typically begin at 5:15 a.m., getting the family ready to start the day. She arrives at Camilla at 7:30 a.m. and finishes at 4 p.m. She then hurries over to Immaculata’s Loyola Hall for her 4:30 p.m. class. She notes that she does much of her homework over the weekend.
“I try to do a little each evening, but by the time I work eight hours, come home—I still have to cook dinner and do whatever needs to be done…” she states. “Hopefully I have my homework done before class; if not, I am doing it during lunch.”
Then there are the sporting events. Her son, the senior in high school, is a member of the wrestling and football teams for Great Valley High School. During the wrestling and football seasons, Santana-Colon finds herself running between Camilla Hall, Immaculata, and the high school to transport her son to his sporting events. And, as if this wasn’t enough, she and Ray are in charge of the wrestling team’s concession stand for all home games.
As much as it sounds daunting, she wouldn’t trade any of the time that she spends with her family. These are the moments that “you can’t get back,”she says.
With her extensive work experience in the business industry, many of Santana-Colon’s classes have not been overly difficult. However, don’t mention algebra and trigonometry. “I think I cried,” she said facetiously. “I kept telling myself, ‘It will come back to me—I’ll be fine.’”
She soon found that that was not the case for her. She reluctantly withdrew from the class and was elated when her academic advisor, Kate Commiskey, told her about another course she could take instead: Math for Managers. Santana-Colon was relieved and found the Math for Managers class challenging but more relatable in terms of what working adults would use in real-life situations.
Santana-Colon enjoys the classroom experience because it enables her to engage with younger students and explore a variety of perceptions different from her own. Appreciating the efforts that her professor for Accounting I and II made to ensure that all his students knew one another well, she acknowledges the bond that grew.
“By the time we were almost finished with the second semester, we were all congregating in the library studying together because we all knew each other so well and felt comfortable with one another,” she stated. “I didn’t experience that level of closeness in any other class. It was unique and I really enjoyed the interaction.”
Explaining her various interactions, Santana-Colon states: “The bond of fellow classmates who are experiencing many of the same life-situations…working, raising a family, doing homework—you can relate and share stories.” She adds laughing, “Then you have the traditional-aged students listening and going, ‘Oh, wow, glad I’m getting it done now.’”
And if the bond is tight with her classmates, it’s even stronger with the Sisters who live at Camilla Hall. Hired at Camilla in 2008 as an administrative/human resource assistant, a new position was created last year that enables her to work extensively with the Sisters helping them set up computers, laptops, and mobile devices, and activate Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. She serves as the Sisters’ personal “help desk.”
Camilla resident Sister Paul Catherine, IHM, stated that Santana-Colon is extremely versatile. “Kathleen is special; she is one unbelievable person,” she said. “We are very fortunate to have her as an employee.”
“My wife is my better half,” states her husband Ray. “She is an amazing person.”
If traditional-aged students are aware of the demands on adult students, it’s unlikely that many would choose the fast-paced, chaotic life that awaits Santana-Colon each day. But, if they look closer, they may notice that she is making a difference in the lives of those around her, and she is making every moment of the day count. She has to.