Rachel Hall, Elementary Education student

News & Features

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Rachel Hall’s story could be one of sadness and tragedy.

She endured a troubled childhood in Columbus, Ohio. She’s been a homeless mother. And in 2005, three weeks after her husband died, her mother passed away too.

Hall has every reason to be a story of sadness and tragedy, but she refuses.

“I have no regrets,” she said. “I’m supposed to be here.”

“Here” is Northeastern Illinois University, where in 2012 Hall reinvented her life to study elementary education. Now age 49, she is two years away from earning her degree. Eventually, she wants to earn a Ph.D. and teach the next generation of teachers, particularly in minority communities.

“We need to empower African-American youths to do everything,” she said. “You can become a teacher, you can do robotics. If children are empowered and educated, they make better decisions.”

Hall already got a taste of that mission over the summer, when she worked with Northeastern’s Grow Your Own Teachers program as part of an Alumni Association Student Internship/Scholarship, one of four scholarships she’s earned through the University in the past year alone.

“I hope my story will encourage others,” Hall said. “If I can’t be anything else, let me be an example that you can do this.”

Hall’s instructors have taken notice—and not just because she sits in the front of every class.

“I admire how Rachel has overcome some serious obstacles in pursuing her education,” associate professor Durene Wheeler said. “As a nontraditional student, she is a great role model for how determination and purpose can take you far when the odds are stacked against you.”