She Mastered It: Sabrina Succeeds With Discipline and Determination


Sabrina at work

Sabrina Earns Her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees

Sabrina on her farmGrowing up on a fourth-generation family dairy farm in Westmoreland, New Hampshire, Sabrina Adams developed a strong work ethic at an early age. When she wasn’t in school, Sabrina pitched in around the farm in various roles, learning the family business and some important life lessons along the way.

Learning the Value of Hard Work

Sabrina's familySabrina’s main duties revolved around the sugaring business and family restaurant, Stuart & John’s Sugar House, where she held virtually every job in the building at one point or another. By the time she was an adult, Sabrina had been a busser, hostess, waitress, and cashier; she knew the family business like the back of her hand.

Sabrina’s mom, Robyne, was her first manager and mentor. As Sabrina became more knowledgeable about the operations of the family business, her mom increasingly depended on her, especially on the busiest days like Mother’s Day and peak maple syrup season.

My mom held me and everyone in our family business to the highest standards. As my first boss, she challenged me to develop skills like responsibility, discipline, and time management.

While Sabrina didn’t realize it at the time, the skills she developed working in the family business were also preparing her for academic and professional success. So, it’s not surprising that she would go on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees while serving in the military and balancing a full-time job. Impressive, but not surprising.

A Nontraditional Student Journey and Military Service

Still, like many adult students, Sabrina’s path to higher education wasn’t traditional. If you had asked her in high school, Sabrina would have told you college wasn’t in her future. She wanted to do something meaningful after high school, but she struggled in her classes, facing challenges with reading and math.

Sabrina also met financial barriers to accessing education. One day after church, her best friend’s dad, a commander in the U.S. Coast Guard, suggested she consider joining the Air National Guard. He explained that joining the service would help her pay for college, discover new skills, and develop a sense of duty. A few days later, they took a trip to Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth and met with a recruiter. She proudly noted that she’s the first woman in her family to serve in the military.

Sabrina’s experience in the military reinforced her discipline, a characteristic that would be central to her success. During the day she put her energy into her work and training, and in the evening she put the same energy into her classes, earning associate degrees from River Valley Community College and Community College of the Air Force (CCAF). With this first goal accomplished, she set her sights on her next goal: completing a bachelor’s degree.

We have a well-known understanding around Pease Air National Guard that the college has our backs and that we’re welcomed there. We know they’re flexible in meeting our needs.

Sabrina found herself becoming an unofficial ambassador for the college and the value of pursuing higher education for personal growth and professional advancement. She told her fellow airmen about how the College supports military students by offering them the flexibility to achieve their academic goals while balancing the demands of service.

Support from Her Academic Advisor

She was especially inspired by her advisor, Bette Papa.

Bette was well informed about CCAF transfer credit, military benefits, and the overall transfer credit process. She made it so easy and painless. And she was always just so willing to talk with me.

Bette supported Sabrina at several key stages of her academic journey, including when she changed majors. While she was earning her bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education, Sabrina had begun a career in the Air Force as a human resources specialist. She found her new position rewarding and a good fit for her skills.

Consulting with Bette, Sabrina made a courageous decision to change paths. Bette explained that Sabrina would have to take 10 additional classes to earn her bachelor’s in Human Resources Management.

Taking Advantage of 6-Week Courses

Sabrina knew that she could earn her degree quickly by taking advantage of the college’s 6-week courses, taking two at a time. She calculated how long it would take her to earn the degree while taking the maximum course load.

I said, “Okay. I can do that in two and a half terms.”

While Bette Papa cautioned Sabrina about the challenges of taking such a heavy course load, she also knew what Sabrina was fully capable of meeting the challenge.

Sabrina is driven by her goals and perseveres with determination. Throughout her education, she often took on a heavy course load while balancing the demands of her work, military service, and personal life.

– Bette Papa, Academic Advisor and Program Specialist

During one of her 6-week courses, she was deployed on short notice.

I was so stressed out at that time. But the teachers were just amazing. They told me, “We understand. You weren’t planning this. We’ll figure it out together.” And we did.

Next Up: Master’s Degree

Sabrina, Granite State College AlumUpon completing her bachelor’s degree, Sabrina was already laser-focused on the next step: earning her master’s degree. Like other decisions throughout her academic career, Sabrina’s decision to enroll in the M.S. in Health Care Management was practical and well thought out. She knew that she wanted a degree that would prepare her to enter a specific field. She also understood that the in-demand health care industry would provide her job security and growth potential. And she knew from her previous experience with the college that her classes would be relevant to her industry.

Every class was applicable. Our class discussions motivated me. Every time I picked up the book or I was in the class, I thought, “This is fascinating, I’m going to need this!”

Navigating Challenges at Home

As motivated and excited as Sabrina was to succeed in her master’s program, nothing could prepare her for the added stress of navigating a challenging family situation: divorce. Dr. Kathleen Patenaude, Program Director for the M.S. in Health Care Management, played a critical role in supporting her through this period.

I was knee-deep in this master’s program and going through this huge life event, and the stress was unreal. I was halfway through a 12-week course and taking two classes at the master’s level. So, I was just ready to crumble. Kathy told me, “You’re going to do this for you. You’re going to get this degree and you’re just going to make it happen. You need this master’s degree for your future. You need it to provide for yourself. You need it to go forward in your career. She was exactly the mentor I needed.”

Sabrina Perseveres

Sabrina at workUltimately, the most difficult part of Sabrina’s academic journey would also become one of the most rewarding. Sabrina returned home to Westmoreland and landed a job in human resources at Cheshire Medical Center. Her life had come full circle as she took on this new role in her beloved community. Meanwhile, she continued to persevere academically, completing her master’s degree in spring of 2021. Sabrina recalled that one of the proudest moments of her life was holding her diploma with Dr. Patenaude by her side.

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