How hybrid learning and an internship program enabled a single mother to pursue a career in public policy—and provide a better life for her two young sons
Sarah Bennett’s school days had a rhythm to them. As a single mom, she’d get her two sons ready, drop them off at daycare, attend a few classes, and head to work. At 6:30 p.m., she’d take her kids home, get them ready for bed and go online to finish classwork. In between, she’d manage care for her grandmother.
But if the kids’ daycare was closed or someone got sick, she needed flexibility, especially with her academics. That was a big draw of enrolling at CU Denver, where she was impressed with the hybrid options that could work with her, on her schedule. “It’s important to prioritize your dreams,” Bennett said, adding that the university showed her a different higher education model where “college is not something that is a one-size-fits-all.”
Students get the support that they need, and they can go out into [the] world and make an impact.... That’s what I love about our university.
She enrolled in a political science degree program with a public policy track in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She quickly found that the university was just as committed to her education as she was. Her professors challenged her, offered guidance, and understood how to help her define her own success. “There were times when I brought my two little boys to class and asked if they could stay,” Sarah said. “Every single professor was super flexible.”
And she was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to form a community on campus, even though she was a hybrid student. “I can be a mom, and I can be a friend, and I can be a daughter, and I can be a sister, and I can be all of these things and still have this experience be my own,” she said. She joined Peer Advocate Leaders (PALs), a program that pairs returning students with new ones, to share her experiences and help others navigate their own educational journey.
She also tapped into CU Denver’s internship networks to build her resume and test out what might be a good fit for her next step. She interned with the Denver Police Department and with a legislator at the Colorado State Capitol. “I got to see behind the curtain, but I also built my resume,” she said, pointing out that the CU Denver’s internship office also offers grants so that students can more easily participate in these opportunities.
After graduation, Sarah became a legislative aide and now plans to attend law school. “My degree represents years of hard work,” she said. “Now, I get to say, ‘I earned it, that’s mine.’ It gives me goosebumps.” And she’s given her sons a model for perseverance and hard work. “My children are so proud,” she said. “They can’t wait for commencement. It just taught them that even through adversity you can accomplish your dreams.”