Abigail RhodesGraduate Student Affirms that Learning Never Stops
Abigail Rhodes was not your typical undergraduate college student. Mother of four and grandmother of two, she decided to enroll in The University of Texas at San Antonio and follow her ambitions of becoming an elementary school teacher after nearly 25 years of working in the field of finance. In 2019, she completed her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary education and is now pursuing her graduate degree in special education in UTSA’s College of Education and Human Development. Rhodes was recently awarded the Samjatha Govindaraju Endowed Graduate Scholarship, which is helping to fund her research and has given her the encouragement she needs to keep going as she continues to work and parent full-time.
Since graduating high school in 1987, Rhodes has worked for both AT&T and JP Morgan Chase. While she expressed her finance jobs treated her well over the years, she always had an interest in a career in education. After seeing her son’s positive experience as a UTSA student and frequently visiting the campus as a Roadrunner parent, Rhodes decided it could also be the right school for her.
Dedicated to always keeping her brain active, Rhodes says she lives by the philosophy, “you’re never too old to learn but if you stop learning, you might just get old.” This outlook on life has pushed her to pursue her education.
With a great deal of empathy and admiration for those with special needs, Rhodes’ graduate research focuses on language development and the different ways in which individual children with autism learn to read. Rhodes believes that children have to succeed at their own pace and that pushing students too hard can have detrimental effects on both their academic performance and mental health. In order to make their successes possible, she says it is paramount that educators understand neurodiversity and the unique ways that brains with autism view and interact with the world.
Receiving the scholarship gave me such a boost psychologically. Of course, I have my family who are very proud of me, but to have someone who is a stranger show they believe in you and what you bring to the table - It means so much to me and shows me it’s all worth it.
“No one should just say that a child can’t read because he or she isn’t on a certain scale. All you have to do is slow down,” explained Rhodes. “Educators need to have patience and understand that everyone is different and should be different. Not everyone fits into a chart.”
After retiring from the finance field, Rhodes plans to set out on her next career journey of becoming a teacher. She hopes to work in an inclusive classroom where students with special needs and those with typical needs learn together in one space. She remains incredibly grateful for the scholarship support she has received from the Govindaraju family as it has not only lessened the amount of her loans but, most importantly, has given her confidence as she pursues her education at a less common time in life than that of most college students.
“Receiving the scholarship gave me such a boost psychologically. Of course, I have my family who are very proud of me, but to have someone who is a stranger show they believe in you and what you bring to the table - It means so much to me and shows me it’s all worth it.”