Ocala HR Student Builds Community & Fitness in 'Run for the Springs' 5K

dawna rhods It can be intimidating to go back to school after years of living your life without homework assignments, classmates and stressful exams. Although earning a degree can be infinitely rewarding, it can sometimes be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel as you progress through the seemingly endless journey. It can be even harder to believe you’re capable of reaching your goal.  

Dawna Rhods has been there. Not only did she earn an associate degree late in life, she even went on to pursue a bachelor’s degree and successfully organize her own team for a charitable, county-wide 5-kilometer race.

Here is her story.

Going after your dreams

“I turned 50 in the summer of 2009,” Rhods says. “It felt like a milestone, so I started to ask myself, ‘What am I going to do with the rest of my life?’ ” It wasn’t long before she decided to finish what she started 30 years earlier and earn that college degree that had eluded her for so long.

She was unsure of where to start searching for the right field of study and the right program for her. While driving past Rasmussen College’s Ocala campus, she made the spontaneous decision to stop in and learn more about the program offerings.

That November, she decided to earn an associate degree in network administration.

Rhods’ goal at the time was to earn an associate degree and then promptly get a full-time job in her field. She worked days and went to class at night, and, with hard work and determination, she accomplished her goal.

But she came to the realization during the last week of classes that she wasn’t crazy about the idea of making network administration her career. “I knew I wanted to do something with people,” she explains. “I’m much more of a ‘people person’ than a ‘computer person’.”

She envisioned herself as a bridge between tech-savvy people and people who might need a little guidance when it comes to technology, something for which she felt she’d need a little extra education. Later that week, she enrolled in the accelerated bachelor’s degree program to earn a degree in human resources.

Ocala senior admissions manager, Kathryn Lombardi, has been with her every step of the way.

Rhods is preparing to graduate with her bachelor’s degree this spring. As she did with her first degree, she has worked full-time during the day and then gone straight to school at night. To cope with the academic demands of school, Rhods has always made a conscious effort to give back to the community and engage in some type of physical activity.

Getting into the exercise groove

Rhods often arrives to school early, ties up her running shoes and walks for 30-60 minutes before class. “I have found that on the days I walk, I feel really good. My homework gets done faster and I feel more energized,” she says.

So when she received an email announcing “Run for the Springs”—a 5K charity run across Marion County—Rhods welcomed the opportunity to bring together her love of community and physical fitness.

“The event raised money to support the Ocala Springs from being contaminated, [which are] the community’s main source of water,” Lombardi explains. “Neighbors helping neighbors, people in the community caring about others and protecting our resources—that was the theme.”

Rhods even recruited coworkers and Rasmussen folks to join her in the race.

"I have found that on the days I walk, I feel really good. My homework gets done faster and I feel more energized"

“When [Dawna] first heard about the 5K, she said it interested her because it was exercise, she had never participated in one before and it would give her an opportunity to give back to the community,” says Lombardi, who was eventually recruited to participate.

Dawna recruited more than enough people to create a team, eventually naming it “We are Walking,” encouraging people to stay active even if they’re not experienced runners. “Some people on our team finished quickly, some in the middle and some all the way toward the back,” Rhods recalls. “But everyone finished. That was the goal.”

Lombardi adds: “Everyone who participated helped to raise money, but it all started with Dawna’s outreach. [She] is a leader on our campus.”

Find your path

Dawna’s accelerated bachelor’s degree will be completed this spring, and she asserts that most of it is due to the support she’s received throughout the years from her mother, her children and her grandchildren. When asked what’s next for her, her voice perks up and she expresses a possible goal of earning a master’s degree in library science or human resources.

With some passionate hard work, Dawna Rhods has accomplished more than she ever dreamed she could after 50. “I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle the accelerated program while working full-time,” she reminisces. “It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been such a great journey.”

Rhods insists that anyone can accomplish the same things if they just put themselves out there and take a chance. “If you want to try something, just do it. It’s okay to be afraid and to worry about whether or not you’ll be successful … but just step out and do it anyway,” she says.

If you want to follow in Dawna’s footsteps and see where an accelerated bachelor’s degree can take you, check out Rasmussen College for available options.

About the author

Jess Scherman

Jess is a Content Specialist at Collegis Education. She researches and writes articles on behalf of Rasmussen University to help empower students to achieve their career dreams through higher education.

writer

Related Content

This piece of ad content was created by Rasmussen University to support its educational programs. Rasmussen University may not prepare students for all positions featured within this content. Please visit www.rasmussen.edu/degrees for a list of programs offered. External links provided on rasmussen.edu are for reference only. Rasmussen University does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced. Rasmussen University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, an institutional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

logo-accreditation-acen logo-accreditation-ccne chart-credential-laddering-associates-bachelors-masters 0 Credits90 Credits180 Credits48 CreditsStart HereHIGH SCHOOL GRADSStart HereTRANSFER STUDENTSStart HereSECOND DEGREE PURSUERSEnd HereASSOCIATE'S DEGREEStart HereMASTER'S DEGREEPURSUERSEnd HereBACHELOR'S DEGREEEnd HereMASTER'S DEGREE chart-credential-laddering-associates-bachelors 0 CreditsStart HereHIGH SCHOOL GRADSStart HereTRANSFER STUDENTS90 CreditsStart HereSECOND DEGREE PURSUERSEnd HereASSOCIATE'S DEGREE180 CreditsEnd HereBACHELOR'S DEGREE chart-credential-laddering-msn chart-credential-laddering-nursing-programs chart-credential-laddering-nursing DNPMSNRN to BSNLPN to RN BridgeAccelerated BSNProfessional Nursing ADNPractical Nursing DiplomaPre-LicensurePost-Licensure icon-colored-outline-bank icon-colored-outline-certificate icon-colored-outline-circle-dollar-sign icon-colored-outline-folder-search icon-colored-outline-hand-heart icon-colored-outline-head-blocks icon-colored-outline-head-cog icon-colored-outline-head-heart icon-colored-outline-health-plus-leaves icon-colored-outline-hospital icon-colored-outline-lifelong-learning icon-colored-outline-light-bulb-analytics icon-colored-outline-location-pin icon-colored-outline-maginify-glass icon-colored-outline-magnifying-glass icon-colored-outline-monitor-healthcare icon-colored-outline-monitor-paper-search icon-colored-outline-nurse-rays icon-colored-outline-padlock-shield icon-colored-outline-person-presenter-screen icon-colored-outline-scales icon-colored-advance icon-colored-arrows-cross-curve icon-colored-briefcase-star icon-colored-build icon-colored-bulb-analytics icon-colored-certificate icon-colored-continual-development icon-colored-duo-chatbox icon-colored-folder-mortarboard icon-colored-forward-ribbon icon-colored-gears-clock icon-colored-globe-pen icon-colored-growth icon-colored-hand-bubble icon-colored-hand-stars icon-colored-hands-gear icon-colored-head-blocks icon-colored-head-cog icon-colored-health-plus-leaves icon-colored-hospital-building icon-colored-laptop-cbe-skyscraper icon-colored-laptop-checkmark icon-colored-laptop-webpage icon-colored-location-map icon-colored-location-pin icon-colored-monitor-paper-scan icon-colored-mortarboard-dollar icon-colored-national icon-colored-people-chat-bubbles icon-colored-person-cheer-star icon-colored-person-laptop-checkboxes icon-colored-person-screen-instructor icon-colored-person-whiteboard icon-colored-phone-chatbox icon-colored-police-light icon-colored-prep icon-colored-presenter icon-colored-regional icon-colored-save-time icon-colored-shirt-hat icon-colored-skyscraper icon-colored-state icon-colored-student-centered icon-colored-support icon-colored-world-experience icon-triangle-arrow-up-plant icon-triangle-calendar-pencil icon-triangle-clock-rotating-arrows icon-triangle-display-gears icon-triangle-hand-right-speech-bubble icon-triangle-laptop-coding-brackets icon-triangle-mortarboard icon-triangle-paper-ribbon icon-triangle-person-cheer-star icon-triangle-person-juggle icon-triangle-triple-people-chat-bubble icon-arrow icon-bank icon-camera icon-filter icon-general-chart icon-general-connect icon-general-degree icon-general-discuss icon-general-email icon-general-find icon-general-hat icon-general-heart icon-general-laptop-building icon-general-laptop icon-general-leader icon-general-map icon-general-money icon-general-paperwork icon-general-people icon-general-phone icon-general-speak-out icon-head-heart icon-info-circle icon-mail-forward icon-mglass icon-play-solid icon-quote-mark-left icon-quote-mark-right icon-scales icon-share-square-o icon-simple-chat icon-simple-desktop icon-simple-find icon-simple-hamburger icon-simple-phone icon-spinner icon-tag icon-testimonial-quotes icon-util-checkbox-white icon-util-checkbox icon-util-checked-white icon-util-checked icon-util-chevron-down icon-util-chevron-left icon-util-chevron-right icon-util-chevron-up icon-util-circle-arrow-down icon-util-circle-dot icon-util-language-switch icon-util-loading icon-util-open-window-button icon-util-open-window-link icon-util-pdf-button icon-util-pdf-link icon-util-refresh icon-util-x rebrand-arrows icon-modality-campus icon-modality-field icon-modality-online icon-modality-residential icon-social-facebook-square-colored icon-social-facebook-square icon-social-facebook icon-social-google-plus-square icon-social-google-plus icon-social-instagram icon-social-linkedin-square-colored icon-social-linkedin-square icon-social-linkedin icon-social-pinterest-p icon-social-twitter-square icon-social-twitter icon-social-youtube-play-colored icon-social-youtube-play ras-logo-flame ras-logo-horizontal ras-logo-stacked