Program helps non-traditional students navigate college

Published 2:05 pm Friday, April 19, 2013

Ann Fulmer, right, goes over information with attendees of the New Options seminar held at Jeff State for non-traditional students.

Ann Fulmer, right, goes over information with attendees of the New Options seminar held at Jeff State for non-traditional students.

Ann Fulmer has helped numerous adults find their places in the college world over the years through the New Options program at Jefferson State Community College.

Fulmer, the program’s facilitator, led a free seminar Thursday at the Chilton-Clanton campus to provide information, referrals and assistance to those wanting to start college for the first time or re-enter college after an extended hiatus from school.

As she described New Options before the seminar started, Fulmer mentioned a Jeff State student named Charlene Wear who had recently joined the program.

Although she had only spoken to Wear on the phone and wasn’t sure if she would be able to attend the seminar, Fulmer expressed high hopes for her as an aspiring dietitian.

When Wear walked into the seminar room Thursday morning, both women were excited to meet each other and solidify the final details of Wear’s enrollment in New Options.

“She made me feel comfortable right from the beginning,” Wear said of Fulmer. “It was just so smooth. She really made it easy. She was just really supportive on the phone.”

Wear was midway through her first semester at Jeff State last fall when she noticed a poster advertising New Options in the elevator.

As a first-time college student at age 33, she was still nervous about navigating the courses—and sometimes even the hallways of Jeff State—and decided to call New Options for more information.

Fulmer helped her through the entire process, including finding book loans, and encouraged her.

Wear kept a handwritten sticky note Fulmer attached to a packet of information she mailed to her that said: “Charlene – I am impressed with you! Ann Fulmer.”

Wear said it serves as a reminder of the people who believe it’s not too late for her to earn a college degree and fulfill her career goals.

“It just really made me feel there really is support out there for non-traditional students,” Wear said.

Another person Wear mentioned was her husband, Mark, who works full-time with the National Guard.

“I absolutely could not do it if it wasn’t for the support of my husband,” she said.

Wear and her husband attended Thorsby High School together and married when she was 18.

Two years later, they had their first child, Katlyn (14), and several years after that came their son Austin (9).

Mark’s job with the Guard took their family to Tuscaloosa in 2001, where Wear worked part-time as a hairdresser and spent the rest of her time at home with the kids.

But eventually, she felt unsatisfied career-wise and was ready for a change.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do at that time,” she said.

While in Tuscaloosa, her friend Chassidy Bonner got Wear interested in exercising and eating healthy foods.

After Wear and her family moved back to Chilton County in 2010, she was ready to combine her new lifestyle interests with her desire to help people and become a dietitian.

In addition to her classes at Jeff State, Wear works as a Family Readiness Support assistant contractor with the National Guard.