His preschool daughter’s Disney Princess backpack sits on the hearth next to his first-grade son’s green backpack (in honor of the Incredible Hulk) … next to his middle and high school daughters’ monogrammed L.L. Bean backpacks … next to his own backpack.
The backpacks say it all: Brandon White’s family has just about every educational level covered this fall. They also say that the Pellissippi State Community College student has a lot of school responsibilities beyond his own classes.
He and his wife, Christy, have five children spanning the ages of 3 to 20. Son Caleb, who works in Washington state, is the only one Brandon White doesn’t have to worry about getting to school.
“Mornings are crazy,” said the former Jewelry Television business analyst. “My wife’s workday begins at 7, so I’m in charge of the chaos. I’m usually up about 5. I get the little girls up. I get the older ones off on the bus, then I get the preschooler and first-grader up and ready to go.
“I drop the first-grader off at 7:45, and the preschooler gets dropped off at 8. Then I’ve got to get from Oak Ridge to Pellissippi State for my class that starts at 8:45. Most mornings I barely make it.”
Since his wife doesn’t get off till 5:30 p.m., evenings are just as hectic.
With so many children of different ages, and so much going on—he and Christy also coach youth soccer—it’s no surprise that White seeks the solitude of the Educational Resources Center on the Pellissippi Campus to study.
“I never do homework in the evening. If I have homework that I haven’t been able to do on campus, I’ll get up in the morning about 3 and brew some coffee. It’s the best time because the house is quiet. I’m kind of a morning person anyway, so it doesn’t bother me.”
Five children aside, at age 37, White is not alone in his mission to earn a higher degree. According to U.S. Department of Education, between 2000 and 2009, the enrollment of students under age 25 increased by 27 percent. Enrollment of students 25 and over rose 43 percent. From 2010 to 2019, a 9 percent rise in the former group and a 23 percent increase in the latter are projected.
White says he was nervous about going to any college.
“I had dropped out in 10th grade and knew I had missed a lot of classes I would need. I was worried about coming here to Pellissippi State and taking the English and literature classes, because I hadn’t had the classes everybody takes in high school.”
But the faculty and staff at Pellissippi State have been very supportive, he says.
“My counselor, Ben Suggs, and the VA representative in Financial Aid, Sharon Shastid, and lots of professors like Jonathan Lamb and Sydney Gingrow have been really good about going over my transcript and advising me. And if you’re willing to ask, the professors will meet you after class.”
White also took Gingrow’s Business and Technical Writing course.
“One of the first things I noticed about Brandon,” said the associate professor of English, “was his ability to connect his managerial and personal experiences with his business writing.
“He had a ‘view’ that was mature and sophisticated, and he worked diligently to improve his writing.”
White is pursuing a general associate’s degree in management and plans to graduate from Pellissippi State in 2012, then undertake a four-year degree. He says he left Jewelry Television when the downturn in the economy caused positions to be eliminated and he realized his own job wasn’t secure.
Luckily, the timing was perfect. He and his wife were working to become debt-free, and they had only one bill left to pay when he lost his job. Serendipitously, the Army veteran still had one more month to take advantage of his GI Bill education benefit.
White decided to start at Pellissippi State.
“I [determined that I] would get the most out of my GI Bill by getting my core classes done here,” he said. “The UT College of Business told me that having an associate’s in the business field from Pellissippi State would greatly enhance my chances of being accepted.
“I would suggest that anybody who’s thinking about college and has the resources should go. It’s been a really positive experience.”
For more information about Pellissippi State, go to www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400.