A community leader, cancer survivor and mother of seven proves no obstacle is too great

Willlena Glaster had a powerful motivation to return to college after 20 years — a promise to her mother that she would one day complete her degree and, in turn, “elevate my family from poverty and show them that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.” Her vision? To open her own charter elementary school. “I know that my purpose is to educate children and give them the very best that I have.” 

“My coach encouraged and supported me through many obstacles. InsideTrack gave me the strength and self-confidence I needed to go back to school.” – Willena Glaster, graduate, Brandman University

Yet like many adult students, Willena faced the challenge of fitting school into a very full schedule. “I am married and a mother of seven. I have a preschool at home. I sing in the choir, work on the culinary staff, and teach three youth classes at church. I’m starting an after-school program in conjunction with our school district for the 4-H club. I am the director of youth counseling services for the local NAACP, and I’ve been asked to sit on the Black Infant Health Advisory Board.” 

A series of setbacks

Then came breast cancer — on top of diabetes — threatening to put her dream on hold. But she was determined to pursue her education. “I put off going to school so many times, so I just said I was going to jump in and do this.” Over the next year, Willena suffered three strokes. “I lost my ability to see and the chemo took away my short-term memory.” 

“I always said my coach was my angel because whenever I was in distress, my coach would call. And when I wanted to give up, my coach would encourage me.” – Willena Glaster, graduate, Brandman University

Fortunately, her university was dedicated to student success and partnered with InsideTrack to provide coaching services. Working one-on-one with a coach changed everything for Willena.

The difference a coach makes

“My coach helped me deal with one issue at a time, then we would go to the next. So I was able to take my mountain and turn it into a molehill.” With her coach’s guidance, Willena was able to move to the larger picture of overcoming the challenges presented by her illness. “She didn’t minimize how I felt, which was very important to me. And she talked with me about what I needed to do so that my illness wouldn’t be an obstacle for me but a springboard.”

“My coach helped me deal with one issue at a time. So I was able to take my mountain and turn it into a molehill.” – Willena Glaster, graduate, Brandman University

Willena’s coach was instrumental in other ways as well. “My coach helped me visualize what it would feel like to graduate, with all of my family around cheering for my success.” Willena also credits her coach with helping her, after a couple of other attempts, see her program through to the end. “I’ve been pursuing higher education for many years, and I’ve let a lot of obstacles deter me. If it hadn’t been for my InsideTrack coach, I don’t think I would have completed it. It would have been my third strike.” 

Promise fulfilled

Bolstered by the support of her coach, Willena’s determination paid off. She graduated with a degree in early childhood development and plans to go on for a doctorate degree in education. Not only has Willena made good on that long-ago promise to her mother, but she has also proven something to herself. “Now that I’ve graduated, I feel like I can take on the world and that nothing is impossible for me to accomplish.”

Together, we can help learners across the nation realize their potential.

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