May 20, 2013
Anjanette LaBellarte did not take the normal path into college. After graduating from high school in the 1980s, she went to work and began to raise a family. She worked as a waitress, and, after a divorce, she worked in a variety of careers, but college was never in her plans.
“I always thought, I don’t really need to go to school. I’m too busy. I’ve got the kids. I’m a single mom. I’m just trying to keep my head above water,” LaBellarte said.
She was shut out of jobs that required more than a high school diploma and she bounced between careers, finally landing in sales at the University Plaza Hotel and Convention Center. But, with a desire to make a better life for her family, in her late thirties, she quit her job, started a housekeeping business to give her a flexible schedule, and she enrolled in college.
“The number one reason was my daughters. I didn’t want them to be like me and how I had waited to get an education,” LaBellarte said. “So, I said I needed to take life by the reins and go to school.”
LaBellarte worked hard at school and in her business, often getting help from her daughters. After five years, LaBellarte earned a bachelor’s in communication with honors from Drury’s College of Continuing Professional Studies in May 2012, becoming the first person in her family to graduate from college. Then, she tapped into her network and worked with Drury’s Office of Career Planning and Development, and the University Plaza hired her back as a sales manager.
“What I saw in her the most was growth personally,” said Chris Huffington, LaBellarte’s manager. “She had a lot of self-confidence, she had great knowledge of what’s out in the community. She just needed that self-assurance.”
Now, it’s the next generation’s turn. LaBellarte has a stepdaughter at Drury and another about to enter college, and she has a message for anyone thinking about going to college, “If they want a better life for themselves and feel better about who they are, they should get an education. It doesn’t matter how old they are, if you want it, you can do it.”
To view a video about Anjanette’s journey, click here.