Kelli Willis of Goessel is a full-time mother of three, works two jobs part-time, and somehow finds time to continue her education through classes online and at the Butler Community College Marion campus.
“It’s very stressful and multiple times I wanted to quit,” Willis said. “But my kids understand and are all for me finishing college. I am doing this to better myself and for my family.”
Willis graduated from Brown Mackie College in Salina years ago with a degree in travel and tourism, but she really had an interest in criminal justice.
“After high school I went to Hutchinson Community College, Colby, and then Brown Mackie, but what I really wanted to do was enroll in the FBI academy,” she said. “Plans changed along the way, and finally in the fall of 2010 I decided to pursue education in criminal justice.”
Willis said her interest in criminal justice stemmed from a desire to help others get their lives back on track, to work with juveniles who were in trouble and needed help straightening their lives out.
“I’ve just always been real interested in all the laws and aspects of criminal law,” she said. “I’d love to be a parole officer or just an advocate for young people.”
Somewhere along the way of raising three children currently ages 15, 12, and 7, and working to support them, Willis’s plans changed again.
“An opportunity came up where I currently work for a dietary manager position,” she said. “All I had to do to secure the job was get the additional education I needed.”
Willis is currently studying at Butler Community College, Marion campus three nights each week, taking algebra and fine arts classes to complete her degree. In April, she enrolled in dietary managerial courses online through the University of Florida.
“I should be done with all of it by the end of March,” she said. “That’s when I have to go to Kansas City to take the dietary manager exam, and with my classes completed I should be ready.”
Willis said taking classes in Marion has been a real benefit for her.
“Online classes are great for some things,” she said. “I just found that I needed to be in a classroom with an actual teacher for the harder classes. The ethics, sociology, and algebra classes just go better if I am around other people working through the same stuff. I get a better grade that way.”
Willis expressed appreciation for the teachers and staff at the Marion campus of Butler Community College.
“They are just very supportive and always want the best for you,” she said.
Support is also available for the online classes Willis takes, but at a more impersonal level.
“If I have a question, I just have to e-mail,” she said. “I like it because I can work at my own pace, and with my schedule, that is really important, but everything is totally online and there is no personal help, what you see is what you get.”
Willis said she had one year from the date University of Florida accepted her enrollment money to complete 32 lessons in the dietary managerial track.
“It’s pretty easy,” she said. “But it depends on your own honesty. You have to be honest with your instructor that you actually do the work, or you won’t learn anything.”
Willis looks forward to next spring when she will have earned her associate degree. Though she will not take her dietary managerial test until April, she begins working full-time in that position in January.
“It’s been really hard to have to miss my kids’ school activities on evenings I have class, so I am really looking forward to being done,” she said.
She does not rule out taking more criminal justice classes in the future, however.
“I do really like learning,” she said. “I might be able to take one class per semester online. You never know how things are going to turn out.”