Donyel Le’Noir Felton
Within each of our Bay Path community members is an inspirational story of perseverance and strength, and we are honored to share them. This narrative originally appeared as part of Bay Path's #MyPath on social media.
"Returning to school has been about building my self-esteem and doing things I'm passionate about, not just following a career. I didn't go to regular summer camps as a kid. I went to College 4 Kids at STCC, where I learned photography. I've always been into it. But when it was time to pick a career in high school, I chose cybersecurity.
"During high school, I was going through many things at home. Having grown up before my time, I was doing things I shouldn't have had to do because I was trying to survive. I felt paralyzed and unable to focus.
"Two years ago, I would have been embarrassed to share that I did not graduate with my high school class. But I want to be open and honest about my experiences because we are all going through things and we can all help each other heal.
"I went to college after high school, but I stopped to prioritize work. It took seven years for me to return to college. During that time, I worked. I traveled cross-country. I served in AmeriCorps and obtained a certificate in Information Tech Support from Tech Foundry. I took time to figure out who I was and why returning to school was important.
"Three years ago, I was working as a waitress, making the amount of money I previously thought, 'Oh, once I make this, I'll be good.' But I realized I wanted more. One day, eight people from Bay Path came to my restaurant. I remembered how Bay Path has always been a part of my life. I went to the elementary and middle school right across the street from them, and the education students would come to help us in the after-school program. They were very genuine people, and I wondered if that was the type of student Bay Path attracted.
"So, as I was waitressing the table of BPU staff, I wondered, 'How can I be a part of this table and be in the conversation?' This pushed me to go back to school. I applied to Bay Path and got rejected. Two years later, I reapplied to the cybersecurity program and got in, but I realized online wasn't for me. I needed to be able to connect with people face-to-face. So, I left that program.
"Last summer, I decided that if I was really going to school, I would apply for something I was truly passionate about. Not what others told me to do, and not just because the career had a high paying salary. I reapplied and got into the Digital Media Arts program with a full ride through scholarships!
"I'm finally at Bay Path, and it's phenomenal! I have a photography business, so I can make decent money doing photography. Still, I'm back in school to get a true education and to build connections.
"Although I'm still overcoming things from my past and working on my mental health, my outlook is very positive. I love going to class. I connect with my professors. I'm trying to immerse myself without overwhelming myself because Bay Path has a lot to offer. And I'm trying to help the younger girls and teach them anything I've learned over the years." - Donyel Le’Noir Felton #MyPath