Never give up because giving up is giving up on yourself” Tracey Beale words when she was asked for a piece of advice at the end of this motivating interview. Tracey understands the value of education and now inspires everyone by her amazing story. She confronted all the difficulties she found during three decades until she proudly achieves her degree in Arts Social Work at Salisbury University.

Her husband and daughters support was essential to give Tracey the motivation and power she needed to keep going on fulfilling her dream. She concluded an important part of her life, but amazing memories and good friends will always be with her.
Get some inspiration by Tracey Graduation Session, along with her interview.

graduation cap with converse all stars shoes on grass

Tracey, where were you born at?

I was born in Baltimore, Maryland

How would you describe your time at Salisbury University, Hagerstown Campus?

Attending Salisbury University (SU) through University Systems Maryland Hagerstown (USMH)  was a wonderful experience. I am so grateful Salisbury University offers a social work program in Hagerstown. It was a perfect fit. I was able to attend classes near my home in Frederick, as well as online. I did not want to obtain a degree strictly online so I was happy about the structure of this program. Additionally, as a working adult, I could attend classes at night and work during the day.

Tell us more about your story, how was your journey from high school to your graduation, 30 years later.

How do I give a synopsis of three decades? When I think about my journey, what comes to mind is that it was so long. Attending college on and off for 30 years is a very long time to pursue a goal. Nonetheless, obtaining an undergraduate degree was something I definitely wanted because I would become a first-generation college graduate, however, my daughter achieved this first. Nevertheless, as I grew older and matured, I learned to value education and realized many of my ancestors were denied the privilege of earning a college degree. Therefore, I did not want to quit although I felt like it many times. Right after graduating from high school in 1988, I attended Virginia State University (VSU) and majored in hotel management. In hindsight, I was not emotionally or academically ready to attend a four-year institution. Participating in campus activities and the newfound freedom I gained once I was at VSU was more interesting to me than attending classes. After attending VSU for two years, I dropped out because I was being placed on academic probation. However, that decision would become one of my biggest regrets in life. I came back to Baltimore in 1990 and began working at the local mall in my area. Shortly upon returning home, I developed an interest in working with children and married a young man I met at VSU in 1992. At the same time, I enrolled in my Essex Community College as an early childhood major. A couple of years later in 1995 and 1996, I had my two beautiful daughters and quit attending college once more to focus on raising them. Shortly after my youngest daughter was born, my marriage ended. After my husband and I separated, I fell on hard times but when my girls and I got resettled, I headed back to school again. 

university system of maryland hagerstown sign

This time I enrolled at Catonsville Community College. I did two semesters there until my new husband and I moved our family to southern Maryland in 2007. At this point, I was getting tired of attending school while juggling full-time work, married life, and raising children. Furthermore, attending college with young people fresh out of high school was starting to intimidate me. I was also dealing with mental health issues along with wondering how was I going to continue to afford attending college as our bills grew. Not only that but I was wondering where in the world would I transfer to in order to obtain a bachelor’s degree now that we were living in southern Maryland? I was also tired of transferring to so many schools. I was thinking what is the point? I was ready to settle. But, settling was not good enough for me. I wanted to earn a degree, graduate with honors and I now wanted to become a Montessori teacher. So, I enrolled in my local community college again, College of Southern Maryland. I took several classes there until we made our final move to Frederick, Maryland in 2014.  When we moved to Frederick, my husband and I had a plan to get me finished all the way this time. I enrolled at Frederick Community College in 2015 and graduated with an Associate’s of Arts degree in Early Childhood Development (high honors) in 2016. To become a Montessori teacher, a person can hold a bachelor’s degree in any subject, so I majored in social work which compliments teaching very well. I was happy to find the USMH social work program. I enrolled in the USMH social work program in 2016 and finally graduated on May 24, 2018, with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work, cum laude from Salisbury University. When I walked out on the floor of the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center in Salisbury, Maryland for the graduation, I broke down in tears as I realized I had accomplished my goal. What a wonderful feeling.

How was your family involved on your path to make that a reality?

I would not be where I am right at this moment if it were not for my family. Particularly, my husband. He’s been my greatest supporter, my oldest daughter talked me into social work and my youngest daughter gave me hugs:)  

2 graduating students holding a sign we love social work

Have you made special friendship while in school?

Most definitely. God blessed me to be apart of the 2016-2018 cohort which consists of an amazing and wonderful group of people. We went from being strangers to family in what feels like 60 seconds flat :). We’ve encouraged and supported each other through the challenges we’ve faced over the last two years which hopefully will continue in the future.

Any special place you and your friends used to hang out around the university?

From 2016-2018, I was among a wonderful cohort of people. We quickly became like family and would often meet at Pretzel and Creation in Hagerstown, Maryland for dinner before classes. We also loved to order their old bay french fries and eat them in class if we were short on time.

graduation student seating in a bar with cap hat


Any funny university moments you could share with us?

I was a member of the Social Work Student Association on our campus. I always had fun participating in events. For example, I and some other members acted like we were Charlie’s Angels during a fundraiser and another time, our site coordinator Anne Chillingworth- Shaffer had us social work students dress up like superheroes during social work month.



How about some difficult times you have had while in school?

Two distinct times stand out. The spring semester of 2017 I was severely anemic and had fibroids and endometriosis. It was difficult getting through that semester as I was juggling work, classes, family and many doctor appointments that led to surgery. Earlier this semester, my 17 year old cousin Draylen Mason was one of the victims who was killed by the Austin, Texas mail bomber. Although Draylen was a distant cousin, his death had a huge impact on my family. I am thankful my professors and classmates were very supportive.

graduation hat saying you can fall but you can rise also


Congratulations on your Merit Based Scholarship! Tell us about your upcoming Loyola University program for 2018-2019?

As I mentioned earlier, another goal of mine is to become a Montessori teacher. Loyola University, Maryland offers a Masters of Education, Primary Montessori degree. I applied and was accepted. I never dreamed of obtaining a master’s degree but I am thrilled about this opportunity.  I was equally thrilled to learn that I was one of seven applicants chosen to receive a $7,500.00 merit scholarship.

city view on top of parking lot


If you have a piece of advice to give to anyone who needs to follow a tough path or just needs the inspiration to keep moving forward to a life goal, what would that be?

To never give up because essentially, giving up is giving up on yourself. We are all worth a fighting chance and nothing beats a failure but a try.


graduation photo student jumping of joy

Tracey, describe your life in 3 words:

Blessed, Inspired and Spoiled 🙂


You deserve it all, Tracey! Congratulations and keep working towards your dreams!!