The third time is the charm for Marie Chichester. The 57-year-old Stephens City resident is studying cybersecurity at Laurel Ridge Community College.
“This is my third time trying to go to college,” she said. “I first went to college in my early 20s and didn’t succeed. I’ve been wanting to go back to school for 10-plus years now,”
In her first foray into college, Chichester started studying to be a dietitian. Later, she had an interest in information technology. For the past six years, she has been with Trex Co., where she works in the finance department.
“I was just sitting here one day and said, ‘You know what, go log in to Laurel Ridge and do the assessment testing,’” Chichester recalled of her decision to return to college. “Something just came over me.”
She had been considering applying to college, but was concerned finances and math would hold her back. Her math fears proved unfounded, as Professor Kenneth Castor has made a big difference.
“I’ve become very eager to learn it,” Chichester said. “My husband is great with math. My two sons are great with math, but I was determined this was my baby. I put in as much time as was needed to understand the concept. Now I can say I’m very comfortable with math.”
She told her grandson she was going to be going to school.
“He said, ‘But you’re too old to go to school,’” Chichester said. “I said, ‘You’re never too told to learn.’”
After she earns her associate degree in cybersecurity, Chichester plans to finish her bachelor’s degree, possibly at Old Dominion University or George Mason University.
Her long-term goal is to have a job using Microsoft Office.
“There’s a big need for women in cybersecurity, but there’s a big need overall to have people with a degree or knowledge in cybersecurity,” Chichester said.
She is very excited to have recently received a Microsoft Cybersecurity Scholarship from Last Mile Education Fund, which comes with a free LinkedIn Premium account, and a free membership to Women in Cybersecurity.
“The scholarship will be enough to put towards a class and a book if I need one,” Chichester said. “The benefits of the LinkedIn account outweigh the money. That’s a doorway for me.”
She encourages others to not let fear hold them back from their dreams.
“You can do anything that you set your mind to do,” said Chichester.
Learn more about Laurel Ridge’s cybersecurity program at laurelridge.edu/cybersecurity.
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.