Elizabeth Burnside wants everyone to know you are never too old to go back to school. At the age of 56, she is a full-time student at Chatfield’s Over-the-Rhine campus. Many people think a mother of two and grandmother of four could never go back to college, but Elizabeth had the support of her family and she knew she could do it! After she graduates from Chatfield in the fall of 2018 with her associate degree, Elizabeth plans to open a daycare center in her community—one that will cater to the various schedules of parents, including overnight shifts. She says she feels drawn to help those out there who may be working very hard but still struggling to support their families. It is her giving heart that led her to Chatfield in the first place, and what makes her such as exceptional student.
Before enrolling at Chatfield, Elizabeth spent her time mentoring graduates of Miami University who were teaching at Rothenberg Preparatory Academy, helping them to understand how best to teach in an urban school setting. As she worked with these young educators, it inspired her to go back to school herself. Just about the time she was kicking the idea around in her head, a Chatfield admissions counselor visited the school for a college presentation. Although Elizabeth had previously been unsuccessful taking college courses online, she decided to check out Chatfield to see if it would be a good fit for her.
After becoming a student, Elizabeth found the classes to be very small and really enjoyed the one-on-one attention she received from her instructors. She was impressed by the supportive programs on campus like tutoring and mentoring.
“It was a good feeling to know that I could ask for help, and not be embarrassed because I knew I wasn’t the only one who needed it,” Elizabeth said.
In fact, as she became more settled on campus, Elizabeth made it her personal goal to welcome new students and make sure they had what they needed. She encouraged them to seek help if they needed it and reassured them they could do it.
“Elizabeth has been a nurturing figure since she arrived on campus—the students look up to her and seek her out for advice or encouragement. She is there to offer advice or wisdom, or just lend an ear,” said Ryan Hall, Over-the-Rhine’s associate dean and site director.
Along with her full course load, Elizabeth was instrumental in starting the Chatfield Student Service Club (CSSC) at the OTR campus. Under her leadership, the group has organized several charity projects, including gathering hurricane relief supplies for Matthew 25 Ministries and volunteering at the Freestore Food Bank in Cincinnati. Over the Christmas holiday, Elizabeth located a needy family in the area and the students gathered presents for the children. Upcoming CSSC projects include a luncheon for new and returning students and activities for Black History Month.
“I believe Elizabeth’s passion for leadership and giving back has really helped drive the success of CSSC,” Ryan adds.
Elizabeth thinks of herself as a mentor to her fellow students, and offers this advice to anyone of any age considering returning to school:
“Make sure you have a plan and support of at least one person. That person can be someone on campus, there are advisors dedicated to your success. Start slow if you need to, one class a semester is still a start. If you try it, you’ll have help if you need it. Do not get discouraged. You are not too old.”