Twenty-two years after completing hairdressing school, Springfield native Sheril Cooley ’13 decided to go back to school. She earned an associate’s degree from Holyoke Community College in 2011 and had been accepted to a nearby four-year college’s social work bachelor’s program. But when a HCC transfer counselor mentioned the then-newly launched HCC/Elms psychology degree completion program, Sheril knew the Saturday schedule and small class sizes would be better for her.

Springfield Native Finds Time to Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Fri May 31, 2013

Sheril CooleyTwenty-two years after completing hairdressing school, Springfield native Sheril Cooley ’13 decided to go back to school. She earned an associate’s degree from Holyoke Community College in 2011 and had been accepted to a nearby four-year college’s social work bachelor’s program. But when a HCC transfer counselor mentioned the then-newly launched HCC/Elms psychology degree completion program, Sheril knew the Saturday schedule and small class sizes would be better for her.

Sheril has worked for Sisters of Providence Health System for 18 years. As a financial counselor for mental health and substance abuse clients, she loves her job but knew a bachelor’s degree would make her a happier and better clinician for her clients. And it was something she always wanted for herself.

“I actually noticed that although Springfield is a very diverse community, there were very few African American mental health counselors,” Sheril said.

The program was anything but easy. Sheril has two children–a 10-year-old and a 20-year old–and worked full time throughout the 20 months. “But it was worth it, and I knew if I took a break, it would be a lot harder to go back.”

Sheril was one of eight women in her HCC/Elms psychology cohort. The group varied in age and background, but Sheril said they quickly bonded. “We knew more about each other than we probably cared to. We all struggled to balance schoolwork with our outside lives, but got through it together.”

Having maintained honors as an Elms College student, Sheril has been accepted to the master’s of social work program at Westfield State University, and will begin this fall. The program will take approximately three years, during which she plans to continue working for the health system.