Facebook Ad Pixel The Purposeful Path of the Returning Adult Student


The Purposeful Path of the Returning Adult Student

March 25, 2024

Start, stall, stop. These are the steps to abandon a choice that is not working out. After some self-examination, life experience and a bit of meaningful determination, the decision to return to college with intention makes all the difference in the lives of an adult student.

What do you want to be when you grow up? Children are often asked this from pre-school through the time of college applications. Friends, family or guidance counselors may provide some insight, direction or options and some teens can step onto a path and successfully follow their goals and visions with relentless fervor.

A few might drift along and complete their degree before finding employment in a general area of interest, making a slight adjustment to align with the job market or as the result of being exposed to another option not as tightly aligned with their childhood dream job. It is not unusual to head off in one direction as a young adult until something shifts, an obstacle is in the way, or we simply change our minds. 

SUNY Orange returning students often share a compelling drive to complete their education. Those who decide to come back with a plan of action, passion in their hearts, and the determination to succeed are not seeking recognition. In the cases of Melissa DiMartino and Katia Delgado, they hope to motivate and inspire others to find a personal or meaningful reason to complete their degree.


After one year at SUNY Orange, Melissa DiMartino left the College with an unacceptable grade point average (GPA) and felt unsure of her direction. With an interest in natural health and wellness, she attended and completed massage therapy at a private school and worked in the field for a few years. DiMartino’s next chapter was a significant number of years as a stay-at-home mom to four children (including twins) and then working in a local restaurant and a children’s learning center before the COVID pandemic changed everything.

“I was on the phone with my mother-in-law, who had COVID-19, and was acting as her healthcare advocate,” DiMartino explains. “When we hung up, I said, ‘I should have been a nurse.’ It was like a bolt of lightning. I never thought I would be a nurse.”

She decided to think some more before taking any action following her epiphany. 

“On New Year's Day, I took a walk,” she said. “I thought ‘What am I going to do?’ I decided if the doors opened with ease for me to take this path, it was meant to be. I signed up for classes and not much time passed before I realized, ‘I am smart.’ I received really good grades and positive comments so I posted them on the wall for inspiration to keep going.”

Twenty-four years after she left, DiMartino was on the Honors Advisory Board, accepted into the highly competitive nursing program, with a perfect GPA of 4.0.


Taking time from a jam-packed schedule, Katia Delgado, a remote SUNY Orange student living in Chester, shared a bit of personal background along with her college experience as an adult student.

“I graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx then was a Pre-Med/Biology major at Columbia. I didn’t finish. And for the past 30 years, it has felt like something I need to do. Finish.”

Delgado continued, “I never completed my education and hesitated to finish because I had my children's sports, travel teams, and obligations that made it feel like I couldn’t commit. I have six children who now range in age from 18 to 29 years old. 

Then, COVID happened and I thought, ‘the right moment is now,’ and started gathering information about and for SUNY Orange.”

Another stall.

“It took me six months to finally obtain my transcripts from my high school and Columbia. I anxiously realized the next phase meant handling school and work obligations while balancing volunteering – PTSA President for the past 12 years, football booster club, and if my church, the Scouts, or our firehouse needed anything, I was always jumping in,” she explained.

Working in finance for 26 years meant Delgado was shifting her major from healthcare to business. In the spring of 2021, she enrolled (along with two of her sons).

“It was interesting to be in school again. You have to prioritize and online learning was completely new with unique challenges. Plus, I procrastinate then push to get things done,” Delgado shared.


The feeling of victory is not wholly attached to exceptional grades–it is the sense of accomplishment as reaching a goal–like a college degree in one’s chosen field, that brings an overwhelming sense of pride. It is the joy, the euphoria, that returning students want others to experience for themselves. 

Planning for graduation this May, DiMartino works through the final phase of the nursing program while balancing 12-hour work days and the responsibilities of her own family. “I love being a college student as an adult,” she said.

Asked if they had any advice for the adult student considering a return (or even entering for the first time) to SUNY Orange, “You may never find the perfect time to attend, but there is no better time than now. SUNY Orange has fantastic resources and everyone has been amazing,” Delgado said and continued, “I wanted to finish what I started. I am in my 50’s and hope sharing my experience can inspire someone.”

“As a mentor, I do give the following advice, ‘Try the things you are afraid of–that is where you grow. Find out who you are and what you are capable of.’ There are so many choices, it can feel overwhelming and it is okay to change your mind,” said DiMartino.

Adjusting your path to accommodate a new interest, personal life changes or based on a suppressed passion are all welcome and encouraged at SUNY Orange.