A story from The Push. (Excerpted from "Live and Learn," Family Circle Magazine, June 2008.)
Brigitte Payne Cogswell's busy schedule hangs front and center of the fridge in her New Haven, Connecticut, kitchen. Even a cursory glance at her calendar reveals that there's rarely a spare minute. Mornings and early afternoons are booked solid with appointments for onsite training at local schools, hospitals and municipal organizations-all part of her job as the owner of a diversity consulting firm called Success by Design. Late afternoons and evenings are for shuttling her two daughters, Agape, 11, and Destiny, 8, to and from a jam-packed roster of activities. Yet, Brigitte, 47, still manages to block out every Monday from 2:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. to attend classes toward her MBA, the degree she's wanted to earn ever since she was in her 20s.
Brigitte credits her mother for teaching her that it's never too late to go back to school. "When I was a teenager, my mom earned her BA at the age of 48 and fulfilled her dream of becoming a social worker. She told me that I must go beyond what she achieved."
So right after high school, Brigitte headed to Connecticut College in New London. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in human relations, she started working as a management trainee at a bank to get her career under way, intending to take MBA classes at night. Though she stuck to the plan by enrolling in grad school in the early 1990s, an intimidating statistics course did her in, and she quit halfway through her semester. She figured she'd give it another try someday.
Then came one summer afternoon in 2006, when a brochure for the University of New Haven's Executive MBA program arrived in the mail.
"Boy, I would love to do that," Brigitte remembers saying as she looked over the pamphlet with Agape, then 9. "Why can't you?" asked Agape. It was just the nudge Brigitte needed. "I was worried about having enough money, but Agape kept saying,
"If this is something you want, you should go for it, Mom."
Brigitte had always taught her girls that you can't put a price on education, and now was her chance to prove it.
The girls are reveling in their new role as teaching assistants. Agape helps Brigitte prepare her Powerpoint presentations, Destiny organizes Mom's folder. Brigitte is confident her daughters' enthusiasm for learning will endure throughout their lives. "Just as I went above and beyond what my mother accomplished in terms of education, I want them to surpass me." So far, it looks like the girls plan to do just that. Even in casual conversation both often talk about college, and Agape already has a loftier goal: medical school.