Patrice Carroll had a bit of anxiety prior to pursuing an associate degree at Howard Community College (HCC). She was quite familiar with the school, having two daughters among its alumni, but she wasn’t certain she would fit in.
“I was a little nervous at first,” Carroll says. “Here I was going back to school at 43, thinking I’m going to be in class with a bunch of young kids and it would feel really weird. But my daughters told me there’d be people older than me in class.
“I felt comfortable when I got there. Plus, I’m kind of the cool mom, so all the young kids can relate and I can relate to them.”
Carroll already had a catering business – making cakes, gift baskets and her acclaimed seafood salad – when she decided to further her education and learn more about the field. She enrolled in HCC’s culinary program and received the BIC Educational Foundation scholarship for HCC’s culinary students.
Several years after the first visit, she still had a warm place in her heart for the school.
“When my oldest daughter went there and we looked around, I really loved it,” Carroll says. “At that time, I wasn’t thinking about going back to college. But as a parent, I loved it from the moment we went for orientation. I loved the atmosphere and the people we came in contact with.”
One of her favorites is Chef Timothy Banks, associate professor and department chair for HCC’s Center for Hospitality and Culinary Studies. “I love my culinary arts professors and Chef Banks is amazing,” she says. “He’s been a great help and I can come to him if I need anything.”
Carroll recently took a business course and was able to apply that knowledge to her two ventures, “Your Favorite Cake Lady” and “Patrice’s Perfect Gift Baskets & More.” Her long-term goal is to open a café. The constant motivation she receives at HCC will come in handy.
“The atmosphere makes me want to push harder,” Carroll says. “I’m older and life itself – trying to run a business, being a mom with a child at home, and having my mom here, taking care of her – can be overwhelming. But a lot of the professors kind of push me and it makes me want to keep going.”
HCC was good for her daughters and it’s been good for her. She doesn’t think they’re exceptions to the rule and she doesn’t keep it to herself.
“I tell people, young or old, you’re never too old to go back to school,” Carroll says. “I advise all the younger kids to go and get some type of certification, if not a degree. Get more than one. It’s really a great school.”
Wherever you want to go, you can get there from here.