When Bess Corn was 36 years old, she was a single mother of an eight-year-old daughter and “going nowhere fast in life,” she admits. It was at that time she decided to get a college degree in hopes of a better future.
As someone who has always enjoyed the company of children, she chose to pursue a degree in Early Childhood Education at nearby Nicolet College. “Right from the start, Nicolet made me feel like a person and that my success did, indeed, matter,” says Corn.
As a student at Nicolet, Corn has discovered a passion as an advocate for early childhood education. “I just don’t feel enough people understand the importance of child development, along with brain development in the early years,” she explains. “I believe if our communities are educated on the importance of those years, it’ll help pave an easier way to strengthen our field.”
On a mission to expand her knowledge, she paid her own way to attend two conferences hosted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) in Washington D.C. “I heard my instructors talk about how amazing NAEYC’s annual conference is,” says Corn. “And I wanted to gain a better understanding of all aspects of early education to help make waves in our field and raise awareness to the importance of our field.”
She attended the annual conference last November, which was followed by the 2019 Public Policy Forum in February. “Both my trips to DC far exceeded my expectations,” she says. “The entire experience, from start to finish, was very empowering and inspiring. During my time at conference, I realized that I had finally found something I felt I belonged to, and that is the field of early childhood education, and I was excited for what my future would hold.”
While there, she networked with educators and advocates from all over the United States. “Being able to share my story with them, and the struggles of early educators, and learn about events happening within our own state that’s affecting early education made my passion for advocating even deeper,” she adds. In fact, Corn is currently working with Ruth Schmidt, Executive Director of Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA), about being a voice at the Joint Finance Committee public hearings across the state. “These meetings take place in April and I’m excited to attend as many as possible.”
Earlier this year, Corn was nominated to be Nicolet College’s WTCS Student Ambassador. She will attend and speak at a state conference in the Wisconsin Dells to advocate for technical education. She plans on graduating in December 2019 with her associate degree in Early Childhood Education, and will continue her education at UW-Whitewater in the spring of 2020 in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in Education.
As for the future, she might not know specifics yet, but she will follow whatever path her passion leads her to. “When it comes to what I see myself doing, there are three things that I have found myself saying,” says Corn. “I love working directly with the children. I would love to inspire upcoming early educators and teach at Nicolet. Finally, I LOVE advocating for our field, and I believe I can help make a change on a larger level, a political level, so maybe I’ll dabble in politics a little.”
She concludes, “All I do know is that I will continue to go where my heart and passion takes me, and reach for the stars.”