FAMU employee began pursuit of higher education at 44

Frances McMillon, program assistant of the Department of Honors Program at Florida A&M, began her higher education journey in 1996 when she was 44.

After serving 35 years in clerical positions for high-profile companies, McMillon decided to move back to Tallahassee from Hartford, Conn. She initially worked for FAMUs NASA program in 1993 until 2003. Eventually, she found another employment opportunity with the university.

The program assistant position was a $15,000 pay cut, but it included the benefits McMillon needed to support her three children. She earned her bachelors degree in 2008 and has held her position in the Honors Program for eight years. By 2010, McMillion earned her masters degree.

I circled FAMUs campus all day, every day, for weeks in search of any open positions, and this was the first one available, McMillon said.

Diriki Geuka, a seniorsocial science education student from West Palm Beach, Fla., said McMillon is easy to talk to and made his early days at FAMU more comfortable. McMillon is one of the first people he met as a student.

“When I first came to FAMU, it was like being in a foreign country, Geuka said. From the day I met her, I really felt like she was someone I could go to, to get support. She was in my corner, and I knew that she truly wanted me to succeed.”

After gaining employment at FAMU, McMillon decided to take advantage of the universitys policy, which allows employees to take a number of classes each semester free of charge.

Since FAMU offers employees six free credit hours per semester, I didnt see any reason not to enroll in classes, she explained. Some people work for the university for more than 25 years and never earn a degree. When I had a little extra money, I would use it to take extra classes.

McMillon said the day she received her degree was a pivotal moment in her life. She believes her story should serve as encouragement for those interested in pursuing their education later in life. One of the most important people her story has inspired thus far is her son, John McMillon, a sophomore history student at FAMU.

After dropping out of high school because of his inability to pass a biology class, John said he decided to pursue his GED after seeing his mothers efforts with her education.

Seeing my mom begin her education late inspired me to start school at 22 years old, he said. I knew that I had to go to college in order to make enough money to be the type of provider I want to be.