Getting a Head Start

Jessica WalshIt's not a common occurrence for a 14 year old, but Jessica Walsh said she was successful taking classes at RACC because of the incredible professors who went out of their way to help. Jessica was a home-school student when her mom learned about Early Admissions and the opportunity to take classes at RACC. She placed into honors level English, and answered only one question wrong. "I was pretty excited about this opportunity. I had no idea what to expect, and my middle school experience did not prepare me for the college one," she recalled.

Jessica said, thankfully, Professor Karen Jacobsen, who started the Honors Program at RACC, was her instructor for Honors English Composition. "It was over my head, but she really went out of her way to help me learn, seeing that I was willing to make the effort. She met with me after class to help me understand the basics of writing college level papers. I actually still have one of the research papers that I got a C+ on, so I definitely had a lot to learn," Jessica said.

In addition to Honors English, Jessica took two history classes with Professor John Lawlor. Since she had a strong interest in a creative writing career, he allowed her to write a creative non-fiction piece instead of standard research papers.

Jessica fueled her writing passion by getting involved as the Arts and Entertainment Editor and a contributing writer of the Front Street Journal, and by submitting works to Legacy, the College's scholarly journal. Jessica said she remembers writing and storytelling even as a young child.

"I would make up stories with my Barbies, then by the time I was 16 I wrote two novellas," she said. "I would just write every night in the family room. My passion for writing came from the desire to help others learn lessons through my stories."

After taking a few classes over three years at RACC, Jessica transferred those credits and used them to graduate early from Penn State with a bachelor's degree in Film-Video. She loved the idea of seeing a story she wrote come to life on the big screen.

"My overall experience with being educated at RACC was great. The staff is so willing to work with you and make the experience personal," Jessica said. "Most importantly, my mom and sister were the best support system. My mom drove me to all the classes until I could drive, and my older sister helped me with my papers outside of class and was always willing to answer any questions."

RACC was also the place where she took her first Yoga class, and she is now the proud owner of her own business, YogiDance. YogiDance is a program for kids that combines yoga, hula hooping and relaxation to improve children's balance and flexibility, and boost their self-confidence.

Jessica had Scoliosis as a child that required surgery and realized that she wanted to have a career that would impact children. "My calling just fell into place. I had no idea that I would do this, just that my desire to help others improve their lives is a strong driving force for everything that I do," she said.

As a business owner, Jessica felt her well-rounded skill set from her alternative education was a necessity. She also sees similarities between taking responsibility for her education and now for her paycheck and career. Jessica said the possibilities in her future are endless and that someday she would like to publish a book.

"When I tell people that I started at RACC at 14 I always hear, 'You must be really smart,'" Jessica said. "I would say that it takes more than being smart. It takes a desire for achieving your goals whatever the path may be, and even better if you make your own path. From my experience I would tell people never to believe what other people tell you. If they say there's no way, you can find one; anything is possible."

You can learn more about Jessica and YogiDance by visiting her website at www.yogidance.com.