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Three nontraditional students unite
Facing uncertainty as nontraditional college students, three women unite to take on the challenge
Fort Leavenworth study group
Barton Community College students, from left: Annick Adjovi-Segning, Rebecca Grindle and Susie Thorne, pose for a photo outside Barton’s Fort Leavenworth campus.

FORT LEAVENWORTH — Starting college can be intimidating, but starting college as a nontraditional student 20 years after high school can be downright scary – a feeling shared by three women who chose to take classes at Barton Community College’s Fort Leavenworth campus to pursue the next chapter in their lives. Taking classes with students still in high school or recently graduated made them uncomfortable, that is until the three met and formed a bond over their commonality as returning college students, and started studying together. So far the trio of Susie Thorne, Rebecca Grindle and Annick Adjovi-Segning have conquered two math classes and are starting their third.  

Adjovi-Segning recalled being quiet and reserved while in classes before meeting her two companions.

“The teacher would always turn around when he was looking for an answer and say ‘I know I’m not the only grown person in this classroom’ but I would think, ‘I can’t compete with these kids who are fresh out of high school and used to being in a classroom’,” she said, acknowledging that having the study group made all the difference in the world in how she interacts in class. “These ladies are amazing, oh my goodness. I just love them; I can call any time of night and they are there saying ‘what do you need?!’”

Thorne said the dynamic between the trio is extremely positive and supportive.

“We advocate for ourselves and each other – we’re each others’ cheerleaders and support,” she said. “It’s a great thing. We want each other to succeed.”

Thorne said her approach to school is completely different than it was when she was in college 17 years ago.

“My desire and drive are different,” she said. “I was a kid before, but now I’m mature and I care. I played softball during my first time in college and just did what I could to get by with passing grades. Now I have a great desire to succeed and not just get by.”

Success, she has learned, comes easier with teamwork.

“In 1997 I was in the basic math class for two weeks, and I couldn’t do it,” she said. “If people asked me about math, I couldn’t even do fourth grade math, but then I met these guys. The fear was huge for me to be in a class with young kids and they would just whiz through it like no big deal, not a care in the world. It was intimidating when I felt so insecure about math. But I felt confident having these ladies close to my age in the class, like a safety net. I felt safe and secure.”

Grindle had a similar experience with math, recalling the group’s first realization that by finding one another, they had discovered something unique.

“Math in particular is not our favorite,” said Grindle, a former nurse working on earning an associate in science degree to pursue a career at a zoo. “That class brought us together. We have to work hard on it but we all bring something to the table that heightens our awareness of how to do it.”

She said they also share a similar motivation, and derive the value of their educations from a similar source. They’re all preparing for the next phase of life as their spouses transition out of the U.S. Army. 

“I had stayed home so my husband could focus on his career, and now we’re doing what I want after doing what the army needed for 20 years,” Grindle said. “We also realize what our families are sacrificing for us to get this education, so the drive is there.

“When I left nursing, I never thought I’d go back and do anything, but then we moved here and I knew about the options at Barton. When I found these ladies in a very similar situation, it made a world of difference; I had people like me!”

Adjovi-Segning stayed back while her husband was transferred to the next base, just to finish her education.

“My husband is usually my main person I go to for help with assignments, but now he’s not here,” she said. However, her two friends have filled that role perfectly. “It’s like having a team I can call and get help from. We each have our own strength we bring to the group.”

All three had glowing reviews of Barton’s classes and instructor to share, saying the six-week classes that are offered on post are challenging, but not impossible with the intense support and accessibility of the instructors.

“Barton has had a tremendous impact on me, and this experience has been life-changing,” Grindle said. “I’m going to be 43 years old getting a job at the zoo and getting to do something I love!”

Visit for future updates to Adjovi-Segning’s, Grindle’s and Thorne’s stories.