Meet Noreen S.

Human Services Student

“Going back to school is no joke. It takes work and discipline, but it's so fulfilling.”

Many people like the idea of getting paid to do what they're passionate about. But what happens if you find that passion after nearly 30 years in an entirely different career? If you're Noreen Sharkey, you follow that inspiration to a brand new future.

Noreen has worked as a hairstylist for 28 years, and she loves her job. But a few years ago, she found herself having a heart-to-heart with a friend that would end up changing the course of her future. "We were talking about everything going on in my life, and at one point he just stopped and asked me, 'Noreen, what is your passion?'"

The simple question sparked a big response for Noreen. "No one had ever asked me that before," she says. "I had never really asked myself."

The answer rose to the surface quickly—and it was simple, but life-changing. "I realized that my passion is to talk to people, have them sit down and discuss their life experiences. I want to help understand what's going on with them and help them make changes so they can be happier and healthier."

She realized that this calling was also her favorite part of her current career. As a hairstylist, she jokes, she's had 28 years of experience acting as a therapist to clients in her chair. So she set off on the mission to make this dream a reality by becoming a licensed professional therapist.

Hudson Valley is the first stop on her journey, where she is now pursuing her associate degree in Human Services. As an online student, she found plenty of challenges to work through, but considers the experience to be well worth it.

"It was tremendously intimidating at first," she admits freely. "But there was no room for failure in my mind."

She was working 45 hours a week, then devoting another 20 hours to classes, the main reason she chose to study online.

The option is working beautifully for her, allowing her to integrate her studies into her current lifestyle and career. By the time her first semester wrapped up, she found herself passing both her online classes with flying colors. She has maintained consistent A's in all her classes since.

Today, Noreen is on her way to a new career and hopes to focus her work on helping people overcome and escape from abusive relationships.

"Going back to school is no joke. It takes work and discipline, but it's so fulfilling," she explains. "The teachers have been fabulous, and so helpful. They are there for you. Working with them has been a delight from day one."