Carolyn Shea has worked nearly 20 jobs — camp counselor, administrative assistant, salesclerk, delivery driver, golf shop attendant and even Easter bunny. The list goes on. But one of her most memorable jobs happens to be her first. And it’s because of Beacon College.
As a high school senior, Shea worked at a New Jersey library helping with research and shelving books. One day, her mom showed up unannounced with a big envelope addressed to Shea from Beacon.
“I opened it up, and the entire library heard me. I let out a huge scream and was jumping up and down in the children’s aisle,” she recalled. “The librarians and assistants saw that I had a congratulations letter and a welcome packet.”
Shea, 34, said it was the experiences and lessons learned at Beacon that led to her current job as an office assistant for New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. Since starting her new post in February, Shea, who was diagnosed with a non-verbal learning disability and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, has enjoyed getting to know her coworkers and feeling accepted.
“The state knows about my disability, and I don’t have to be ashamed about it,” she said. “At other places I’ve worked, I’ve had to hide it.”
During her senior year of high school, Shea considered 12 other colleges. But it was a trip to Beacon that sealed the deal. After touring the Leesburg campus, she described it as welcoming and homey, and most importantly, “I felt like I could get along there.” She immediately told her mom that she wanted to apply to Beacon.
After submitting her application just seconds before the deadline closed, Shea waited in anticipation. At the time, her high school teachers weren’t sure if she would graduate or get into college and suggested holding her back a year. But she persisted.
It was that same persistence that led Shea to not only graduate from Beacon in 2011 with a bachelor’s of arts degree in liberal arts and minors in psychology and history, but to also soak up every experience. During her sophomore year at Beacon, she founded a sorority and was elected student body treasurer. A member of the honor society, Shea joined the chess and theater clubs. And although her career goals changed — she initially wanted to be a teacher and then work at a nursing home — she always wanted to help people.
She also credits mentor Kenneth Sweet and professors Dr. Terri Ross and Dr. Shelly Chandler, then chair of the human services department, as vital to her succeeding at Beacon, as well as helping her to manage her disability in the workplace by setting a schedule and routine.
“It felt right right away,” she said. “Even though I was looking at all of these other colleges, I just went with Beacon. It was a very helpful experience.”
Now Shea, a New Jersey native, has a position that she’s always dreamed of — working in the governor’s office helping constituents with their questions and concerns. Throughout her career, whether she was donning an Easter bunny suit for children at the mall, organizing activities for nursing home patients or manning the checkout line at a department store, she’s always stayed true to her passion of helping people.
“With my role right now, I feel happy. This is what I’ve been wanting for years,” she said. “I’ve mainly worked in a lot of service jobs. I was always helping somebody.”