Today, when a degree is often considered essential when contemplating a future career, it can be easy to forget about a time where it was not unusual to achieve success without one.

For Hope Suttles, a non-traditional student graduating this May, a degree isn’t seen as an inevitable next step, but rather, a chance to reinvent herself.

Suttles is working toward a degree in digital film and television production with a minor in screenwriting.

Suttles said she has always yearned to get a degree but is fairly certain that if she would have begun traditionally, she would have given it up for something else, such as marriage.

“Even then, I wanted to go, but I didn’t really know how, and I didn’t know who to talk to or what to do,” Suttles said. “Back then, it was different because they didn’t push it in high school like they do now.”

Although her father attended college for a few years before making a name for himself as an engineer, Suttles said she will be the first to graduate college in her family.

Following the birth of her first daughter at 22 years old, Suttles enrolled at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minnesota, and stayed for a couple semesters before deciding to leave after the birth of her second daughter.

Later, after relocating to Springfield with her mother, grandmother and two daughters, Suttles enrolled at Missouri State University two separate times, each ending for the sake of family.

As the saying goes, third time’s the charm.

Suttles returned to MSU following her time as a floral manager at Dillons Food Store. Also around this time, Suttles married her current husband, who she said is excited and open to whatever happens next.

“I’m thankful, really, because we have a close relationship,” Suttles said. “I can see where some people go back to school (who) are married, and there’s a little bit of separation that takes place.”

Suttles will not deny, however, the hard work it takes to balance all aspects of life while trying to be a diligent student, especially as someone in their later years.

“People don’t know, they really don’t, what it entails,” Suttles said. “It was hard to juggle sometimes, but I never felt like I wanted to throw in the towel because this was my opportunity, and I knew that if I didn’t do it now, it probably wouldn’t happen.”

Since she was a kid, Suttles said she aspired to be a screenwriter. Suttles attributes her creativity to her mother who was a published writer and artist.

Though she ventured into screenwriting on her own accord, Suttles said she couldn’t help but wonder what a few classes could do.

Ensuing graduation, Suttles said she would like to try her hand at filmmaking and is open to following that pursuit wherever it may lead.

“I would encourage people that are older to reinvent themselves,” Suttles said. “But be prepared because it’s going to take a lot out of you, and you’re not a spring chicken.”