Helen Dahman is taking the summer off classes. Although, if it were up to her, the grandmother of two would live on campus year-round - including holidays.
Dahman, 66, is one of the many UC Merced
transferstudents studying World Cultures and History. She’s proving that it’s never too late to finish what you started, and that higher education is for everyone.
“It’s not about the grade anymore,” she said. “I’m here to learn - not to get that diploma and get out of here.”
As one of the more mature students on campus, Dahman said her goals and journey to UC Merced differ from other students, but her reasons for attending college are the same - to be well educated and well rounded.
Dahman’s journey began almost 10 years ago when she decided to take a class at the Madera center of the State Center Community College District.
She had completed one year of community college when she was 18 but found a job during the summer and never returned. It wasn’t until years later, when her children were well into their college careers, that she realized she felt out of place.
“My husband and two sons are well educated and our friends are well educated,” she explained. “I felt a little intellectually inferior.”
An avid reader, she enrolled in a health education class at the college to get things started. But then tragedy struck. Her husband, a former lawyer and judge, had a stroke and would require constant care.
“I thought, that is it,” she said.
But with help from a professor friend, and with encouragement from her family - she says they are her biggest supporters - Dahman was able to take a class from home and continued her studies. Eventually her husband regained enough health to allow her to take a few nights off to attend school.
It took her nearly a decade, but Dahman earned an associate of arts degree.
She wasn’t ready to stop learning.
“When I heard we were going to have a UC, it was like a calling,” she said.
Dahman is taking one class at a time, and said so far, she loves the small, intimate campus and the relationship she has with her professor. She really loves the lively discussions with classmates, too.
“I’m not afraid to show my ignorance or to ask questions,” she said. “You don’t have to prove anything to anybody. I don’t have to show that I’m cool.”