It’s Never Too Late: Alex’s Journey

After battling and beating lung cancer and serving as his mother’s caretaker over the last decade before she passed away, Alex faced several circumstances beyond his control, each shaping his outlook on life and his path back to college.

Higher education can open doors and offer new opportunities, helping learners reach their personal and career goals. But what happens when life takes a turn or introduces unforeseen challenges? For many adult learners, the academic journey is not linear. Unexpected life circumstances can derail an adult learner’s path toward completing their education, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t find their way back.

Jose “Alex” Colon originally enrolled in college to pursue his passion for electrical engineering, but stepped away when a lung cancer diagnosis required him to focus on his health. After battling and beating lung cancer and serving as his mother’s caretaker over the last decade before she passed away, Alex faced several circumstances beyond his control, each shaping his outlook on life and his path back to college.


Navigating the return

Ten years later, Alex returned to college to complete his degree at the age of 50. What prompted Alex to resume his academic journey after a decade? A call from ReUp Success Coach Shannon. The call was more than a simple reminder for Alex that pursuing his passion was possible. It was a realization that his dreams were within reach. It reminded Alex of his interest in electrical engineering and his desire to work in the field and sparked his decision to start the journey back to college. Alex says, “Going back to school felt like an impossible mountain to climb, but Coach Shannon showed me it’s one step at a time. Her belief in me made me believe in myself.”

One year after ReUp’s initial outreach, Coach Shannon reached out again. Alex had taken the steps to return, but it wouldn’t have been possible without her support.

“If Coach Shannon wouldn’t have reached out, I probably wouldn’t have gone back to school,” Alex says. “It’s like she lit a spark in me at just the right moment.”

— Jose “Alex” Colon

Alex emphasizes that his conversations with Shannon made him feel empowered. He knew that he was capable of completing his degree–he just needed the right support.

The road back to college was not an easy one. Alex was then living in South Carolina, which made a move back to Nevada essential. He not only faced the physical barrier of distance but the prospect of uprooting his life to recommit to his education goals. Relocation was just the start. Re-enrolling meant navigating new administrative procedures, overcoming doubt, and addressing financial concerns. A significant hurdle was correcting his academic record: having left mid-semester in 2013, Alex needed to have the F grades for those courses expunged. This step was crucial in clearing his path to re-enrollment, and having his Success Coach guide him through the process helped relieve the uncertainty and anxiety surrounding the process.


The impact of success coaching

ReUp Success Coaches holistically support the learners they work with, ensuring that they address the learner’s unique needs. For some learners, their Success Coach is the only support they have on their journey back to school.

When Coach Shannon began working with Alex, she listened to what he needed to understand how she could best support him in taking the next step. Alex emphasized that Shannon was the one person in his life who called to check on him, to ask how his classes were going, and to provide the support that he needed when no one else did. “I don’t see Shannon as a Success Coach; I see her as a friend. She’s someone who genuinely cares beyond the academic scores, asking the hard questions no one else does,” notes Alex.

Their conversations were candid, sometimes challenging, but always constructive. Shannon’s knack for asking just the right questions made Alex realize that he had the answers all along. She didn’t just guide him; she empowered him. “It’s incredible to watch students like Alex transform,” Shannon says. “They start uncertain and then blossom into confident learners with clear goals. That’s the real power of what we do at ReUp.”

To Alex, Shannon was more than a Success Coach; she was someone who cared deeply about his well-being beyond the textbooks and lectures to ask the tough questions. Adds Alex: “I strongly encourage anyone that’s on the fence to try and talk to someone. It’s never too late. I mean, I just turned 50 and I’m where I should have been maybe in my 30s or late 20s, but it doesn’t matter to me.”


Supporting learners where they’re at

Even though it took a year before Alex was ready to return to school, ReUp was there to support him every step of his way back. Shannon said, “Success coaching at ReUp goes beyond academics. It’s about connecting on a human level, understanding each student’s life, and tailoring our support to fit their needs.”

When institutions provide adult learners with personalized support that addresses their unique needs, it’s a win-win. Alex is continuing his studies and working toward the goals he set for himself years ago. His journey underscores an important message for anyone thinking about a return to their studies: It’s never too late, and you don’t have to do it alone.

Learner Pro Tip

"For anyone doubting whether it's too late to return to school, I'm proof it's not. And having someone by your side makes all the difference."

— Jose "Alex" Colon

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With the support of ReUp, Alex is on his way to earning his electrical engineering degree, but his experience has meant so much more: “This journey back to school has been about more than just getting a degree. It’s been about finding myself again, and I owe a lot of that to the support I received from ReUp.”