Coaching Through Crisis — How One Adult Student Gained Advantage Over Adversity

The power of a promise

Willena’s story

Willena 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.

Too determined to be defeated

Like many adult students, Willena faced the challenge of fitting school into a very full schedule.

“I’m one of those people when they say ‘I have a busy life,’ I truly have a busy life. 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.”

Regardless of the time commitment, Willena was determined to pursue her education … even when a breast cancer diagnosis threatened to put her dream on hold. “I’d put off going to school so many times, and so I just said I was going to jump in and do this.” Willena started school only six months after beginning her treatment. “It was very challenging to go to school, because I was sick a great deal of the time, and the cancer was complicated by diabetes.”

Turning obstacles into opportunities

During the next year, Willena suffered three strokes, which affected her vision for several months. “I lost my ability to see, and the chemo took away my short-term memory.”

Coaching makes a difference

Willena was attending a university that was dedicated to student success. Her school partnered with InsideTrack to provide student coaching services. InsideTrack helps colleges and universities create adaptive coaching solutions that generate measurable results. Willena credits InsideTrack’s coaching for getting her through those difficult early days and helping her build confidence to meet each obstacle as it arose.

“The very first call from my InsideTrack coach, I was in crisis.”

Unfamiliar with computerized systems, she wasn’t sure how to sign up for her classes. She was also not used to putting herself first. Her coach helped her compartmentalize, prioritize and organize.

“My Coach helped me deal with one issue and 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 allowed me to go through my emotions and didn’t minimize how I felt, which was very important to me. And then she talked with me about what I needed to do so my illness would not be an obstacle for me, but a springboard.”

But most importantly, “my Coach helped me visualize what it would feel like to graduate, with all of my family around cheering for my success. I’ve been pursuing higher education for many years and I’ve let a lot of obstacles deter me. But I know that my purpose is to educate children and to give them the very best that I have.”

Willena’s determination paid off. She graduated, proving the power of a promise.

Willena Glaster, graduate, doing what she loves best — working with children.

“My InsideTrack coach encouraged me to give my best to the children I work with — supporting me through many obstacles and this foreign, computerized experience. I applaud every student, and am happy to tell them they can meet their challenges and earn their college degrees.”

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