When NOVA student Dani Erbe returned to the classroom after a 12-year break, she was determined to complete her degree. Working full-time for Fairfax Water, Dani often has long week days – completing work at her job then attending classes and tutoring sessions at NOVA part time.
Before Dani first became a NOVA student in 1990, she was a single mom working as a waitress. She recalls that the government at the time offered clerk typist education for free, so she took advantage of it and has built her administrative and business career on that.
“When I did start my college career – and this was after high school and after I had a son – I went on to take that class, received a certification and looked for jobs based on that,” Dani said. “I became an administrative assistant and I actually started a full-time job doing window washing on the side. I decided I wanted to put my efforts into an education that would pay me more during the full-time job because I would be in D.C. at night, washing windows with my 4-year-old son sleeping on the couch. So I decided we needed to do something different.”
In 1990, Dani decided to build on her administrative skills, so she started taking classes in microcomputer usage at NOVA. She received a certificate and then took a 12-year break when she started a new job. She admits that she was just a little discouraged and welcomed the new responsibilities of her job and a break from the classroom.
In hindsight, Dani said she wishes she hadn’t taken that break but continues to work her way toward her degree in business administration one step at a time. This time around, her studies at NOVA led her to the Academic Success Center (ASC) at the Alexandria Campus, where she said she found the assistance she needed to get through her math courses for the past two years.
Dani started taking developmental math as an Extended Learning Institute (ELI) student and often used the lab on the Annandale Campus – her main campus – to complete her work and get tutoring. However, her full-time work schedule kept her from making it to the Annandale lab before closing. Staff at the Annandale Campus advised her to try the ASC at Alexandria which is open longer hours on week days and provides more services and resources for all NOVA students.
“ASC is free tutoring and sometimes I don’t always get what they’re teaching while in the classroom. The professors are great, but people learn differently,” Dani said. “So I was hoping the tutoring would clear that up for me.”
During her first visit to the ASC, Dani said she didn’t know what to expect. She worked with a few tutors when she needed assistance and then started making appointments with one of the tutors who really broke everything down for her to understand. Courtney Boland, ASC coordinator, said students of all ages come in to get help in math and other subjects. Students often return to ASC and make appointments with tutors they’ve become comfortable working with.
“I would have had to pay a tutor or decide to do something else. I spend as much time as I can with them for tutoring, and I get two hours a week with my regular tutor. She has been so great and has even come in on a couple of Saturdays to help me,” Dani said. “I’m fortunate to have it and I don’t think I would have passed math without their help. Between tutoring and my teachers, I’ve gotten through it.”
Dani continues to attend the ASC each week and is looking forward to graduating with an associate degree in business administration in 2019.
Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.