Military spouse discovers love of history at Barton Community College, pursues degree at 38 years old

Hannah Mesa portrait

November 20, 2019
Story and portrait by Brandon Steinert

Non-traditional Barton Community College student Hannah Mesa, a mother and military spouse, is chasing a dream and has been plowing through anything that gets in her way, from others’ mindsets to daycare waitlists.

“I am native American, Apache, and the women are the hunter-gatherers and the providers, and that’s how I was raised,” she said. “My husband is completely military educated and is the opposite, so I enrolled out of spite to show him that even though I’m a housewife, I can still go to school if I want. We had talked about after the kids were raised and we have more flexibility, maybe I would go back to school. It was funny, I just told him ‘I start school on Thursday.’”

After her first two classes, she realized her passion is for learning and understanding history. She is about 70 percent done and will finish her associate degree in May. Next, she hopes to visit some of the historically significant places she has learned about, pursue opportunities to research and write and find work that allows her to put together exhibits at museums. Her favorite subject is military history through the Vietnam War era.

As a nontraditional student at the age of 38, taking classes alongside high-school- and college-aged students can be challenging, but she said it has been a surprisingly good experience.

“It’s a very unique place,” she said. “Everybody has been to different places, but nothing separates you here, be it military or otherwise, everybody is very respectful and eager to learn from the course and about each other.”

The most challenging aspect, she said, was finding daycare for her youngster. The waitlist at the local child development center is nearly 18 months long. She has to stay up until midnight each night to utilize an online registration system to secure a spot for him 28 days in advance. She is committed to finishing her degree without falling victim to the many opportunities to make excuses.

Mesa said Barton’s faculty and staff have been empowering and enlightening beyond just effectively teaching their courses, they have had an impact on what she knows is possible with her education.

“Getting your foot in the door opens up a whole new world,” she said. “You view things so much differently and you think, ‘wow, I can really do this.’”

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