Jessica Ballew believes every young woman has something extraordinary to offer the world. It was on this belief that she founded J.E.S.S.I.C.A. Cares, a nonprofit that helps build confidence in at-risk teens through empowering seminars and retreats.
"My organization’s mission is to offer teenage girls the tools necessary to develop value in their self worth and help them hold it to high esteem so that their decisions and behavior will reflect that positivity," said Ms. Ballew, a resident of Sparta, NJ.
She credits Berkeley College with helping her be a living example to the teens in her program – that whatever you set your mind to can be achieved. After 18 years in the workforce, Ms. Ballew is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration – Management and plans to graduate in 2012.
"Berkeley College has changed my life because it assisted me in achieving a dream I thought for a time would not be possible," she said. "This will help me be a true testament to the girls in my program — that there are resources as long as the desire is there."
But Ms. Ballew’s journey to Berkeley College was not an easy one. As a Branch Manager for Investors Savings Bank, she noticed college-educated applicants being hired to the same position it took her 14 years to reach. She decided she needed a competitive edge.
Though initially excited about the prospect of a college degree, Ms. Ballew became discouraged after meeting with advisors from different colleges.
"When I decided to go back to school I did not want to jeopardize my responsibilities and quality time with my children, so online classes were the only option for me," said Ms. Ballew, a mother of three. "But I found that several colleges were more interested in making me fit what they wanted of me. They pushed me toward traditional classes."
Ms. Ballew was almost ready to give up her college aspirations when she found Berkeley College.
"After I spoke to the advisor from Berkeley, everything changed," Ms. Ballew said. "Berkeley assisted me through every step in getting started, and that made the difference for me."
Ms. Ballew enrolled with Berkeley College Online, which provides her with the flexibility and support she needs to manage family and work responsibilities while achieving her degree. Berkeley College’s Nonprofit Management classes also introduced her to new skills needed to expand J.E.S.S.I.C.A. Cares.
"I hope to share my new leadership skills with the young girls I work with," Ms. Ballew said. "It will help them see that no matter what life has dealt you, going back to school is a choice and that it is never too late."
For more information about J.E.S.S.I.C.A. Cares, visit www.jessicacares.org.