For as long as Kennette Toussaint can remember, her goal was to earn her bachelor’s degree.
But when Toussaint graduated from Opelousas High School in 2007 and enrolled in college, a cloud followed her.
In 2008, Toussaint’s high school boyfriend shot her twice, then himself. He did not survive.
“I didn’t have the right resources,” she says. “I wasn’t focused on school because I was still trying to deal with what happened.”
A Path to ‘Better’
In 2010, Toussaint gave birth to a son, and, she says, her life shifted.
“I realized I had someone watching me, and he would live his life based on how I was living,” she says. “I started making better choices, choosing better relationships. He gave me a whole new perspective on life.
“I just wanted to do better; I just knew I had to get back into school.”
Toussaint waited until her son was old enough to enroll in pre-k to return to school, studying Early Childhood Education at South Louisiana Community College.
Once she began working full-time with a Head Start program in Breaux Bridge, Toussaint began exploring how she could earn her bachelor’s degree and found UL Lafayette’s Online Programs.
The criteria of the General Studies Online degree program resonated with her. It was designed for students with at least 45 college credits, who need to complete their degree.
Toussaint says the flexibility to complete coursework while working full time made it the “perfect” choice for her, but she still had to adjust to the unfamiliar format.
“It was very different,” she says. “I did SLCC on campus, working part time, so I was able to fully focus on school. But with online, I was working full time, and you have to be so self-disciplined to do online schooling.
“It was a struggle at first, but I was able to get it down.”
To ensure she had the time she needed for her coursework, Toussaint says she made personal sacrifices.
“I had to kind of put my social life aside. My main focus was work, taking care of my son and his schooling, and school,” she says. “I stopped dating for years. I was just trying to focus on getting this degree. It was a sacrifice, but I knew that small sacrifice would pay off in the long run.”
The Support of a Village
Toussaint says she quickly developed relationships with University College staff, including Dr. Gail Bonhomme, associate dean, and Sharon Williams-Gregory, who became Toussaint’s advisor.
“Dr. Gail was my first advisor, but she was much more. She was like a mentor when I first enrolled,” Toussaint says. “We talked about life and the career path I wanted to choose.
“Mrs. Sharon was just as great. They really helped me out so much. I really appreciate them.”
Toussaint’s family also was a major supportive force as she pursued her degree.
“My job is 45 minutes away so my sisters made sure my son got to school on time every morning, my mom made sure he was picked up in the afternoon, my brothers babysat when I needed if he didn’t have school but I had to work,” she says. “My siblings, my parents, they played a major part.”
Mom, Teacher, Hero
Throughout her journey, Toussaint’s son has been paying attention.
“When I told him I was getting ready to graduate from UL, he was so excited. He gave me a hug, saying, ‘I’m so happy for you,’” she says. “He almost had me in tears. He really is watching everything I do. I know I have to keep it up.”
Toussaint says she’s taking steps to become certified to teach in the public school system and would like to teach pre-k in Opelousas.
Meanwhile, her son is already talking about his career goals and what he wants to pursue in college.
Toussaint says achieving her academic goals has better prepared her to help him when the time comes.
“I just want him to know there are so many things he can do, so many possibilities,” she says. “My parents didn’t go to college so they didn’t know the necessary things that I needed to do. I wasn’t aware of how to apply for scholarships or programs I could qualify for.
“Now I’m aware; I’m ready to help him do whatever he needs to accomplish his goals.”
Earn or complete your degree online. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette offers five undergraduate degree paths in business, general studies, and health care. Apply or request more information today.