Catalyst Ranch’s Latest Overcomer:

Achieving Success Despite Circumstances

by Drea Holland

The road to obtaining my Masters degree was a long and often trying one. I often felt like quitting was a better option than sticking it out. There were so many times that I wanted to quit and give up, but I managed to push through. There was already a host of elements working against me, but I managed to persevere.

Let me give a little background.

My senior year of high school, I became a teen mom. A statistic I did not want to attach to myself. Despite having a child so young, I managed to graduate 3rd in my class. I then went on to school for my Bachelors, but that took me the better part of 8 years to complete. This was due to doubt in myself and life getting the better of me. I often had to stop taking classes because I had to work more hours to support my son. I knew this sort of life wasn’t for me.

In December 2014, I finally finished my undergraduate degree. I had so much anxiety leading up to the event that I was having panic attacks daily, but I managed to walk across the stage. This was possibly one of the greatest moments in my life.  After finishing my degree, I started applying to position after position, but finding out I didn’t have enough education in comparison to those that were applying as well. Everyone seemed to have their Masters. I knew that was the next thing I needed to do.

After searching through countless programs, I found one online that I knew would suit me. It took me months to get to this point. I applied for the Masters of Communications program at Southern New Hampshire University, and was accepted! I knew the work would be challenging, but I was prepared for it, or at least I thought I was when I started my program in April of 2015.

This was possibly the hardest task I had ever tried to accomplish. There we so many nights that I wanted to just quit. I didn’t think that this was something I would manage. But then I thought about my son. He’s now 12, going on 13, and looking at me as the example of what hard work can accomplish. He was so proud of me when I received my Bachelors after working most of his life towards it.  I just knew that failure was not an option.

So I worked hard. There were nights I stayed up until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning just to finish projects or reading assignments. And there was no such thing as a week when a paper wasn’t due. But I trudged on. It honestly felt like I would never finish. Then as I was talking with my advisor, she told me I had 3 classes left to register for, one of which being my capstone class! I was finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel! I worked so hard through my depression (I was diagnosed during my undergrad) to get to this point!

After completing two of the three courses I needed to finish, I was able to apply for graduation. This was right around the time of my birthday in March, 2017. I’ll never forget that day. I was coming home from a trip to Mexico. As I was sitting in Detroit’s airport on an extended layover, I decided to check my school email. Not only was the capstone term about to start, but I was supposed to receive word on if I had been accepted to participate in graduation. I was so nervous, and in minutes I broke out in tears of joy as my application had been accepted!

On a side note, one should never cry in an airport Chili’s. You just look insane.

Everything from that point forward was a whirlwind. I had to fly to New Hampshire for graduation. I worked through so much and went through so many ups and downs to get to this point that I was NOT going to miss walking across that stage and shaking the President’s hand for anything in this world! The only thing that made flying to graduation better was that this would be my first ever trip with my grandmother and my mother on a plane with me and my son.  My grandmother turns 90 on July 14th, and the smile on her face as she saw her granddaughter reach this milestone brought tears to my eyes again.

Now, the preparation to get to graduation was not smooth, much like everything else on this journey.  We were running late for the plane. My mother was making a dress for me to wear, but she couldn’t finish it in time so I had to improvise. I was almost afraid I couldn’t afford the tickets for all of us to go. But as soon as we landed in Boston’s Logan Airport, everything was smooth sailing. We got to our hotel in enough time to change and head to the Pavilion. Yes, I chose to fly in the day of graduation! We got to the arena for graduation, and I think I was on Cloud 9 the entire time! When they called my name, I still didn’t believe it was quite real. This was the greatest moment of my life.

I’m so glad that I was able to reach this level in my education. I know that I can do anything I set my mind to. Could a Doctorate be in my future? I don’t know.  But I know that whatever my next goal is, I have the strength to accomplish it.

Drea Holland, Newly Minted Meetings Maven, Official Sports Mom, is Client Services Manager at Catalyst Ranch. As a lifelong Chicagoan, Drea loves working in an area with such diversity and activity. “I love talking with clients about what’s going on in the West Loop. It adds character to their meeting, and makes them even more excited to come here.” Drea is happy to be a part of the Catalyst Ranch family.