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Adult student Amy Doughten starts fresh at Queens

Breaking from the pastHayworth College for Adult Studies student, Amy Doughten

For a long time, earning a college degree was an unreachable dream for Amy Doughten.

Raised in what she describes as a controlling Christian sect whose members strongly discouraged higher education because they believe it focuses on non-spiritual goals, she risked being cut off from social interaction if she pursued a degree.

But eight years ago, the tension between her desires and the rules she'd grown up with reached a breaking point. She felt trapped in a marriage in which she said she suffered verbal and emotional abuse, and though the group she belonged to discouraged divorce, she decided to leave her husband. That meant she also had to leave her home, business and family, who shunned her.

Five years later, she left the group altogether and settled in Davidson. Holding onto the goal of a college education, she enrolled at Queens through Hayworth College for Adult Studies at age 41.

 Hayworth staff guided Doughten through the application process, making a manageable load for what could have been a daunting task for someone who'd been closed off from the regular world for so long.

Doughten's acceptance letter brought both tears of joy and sorrow. She was ecstatic to be accepted, but sad when she saw the cost of tuition. She called Hayworth to say she couldn't attend because she couldn't afford it. But staff told her not to worry, that there were plenty of financial-aid sources to help with the cost. In fact, Doughten ended up getting a series of scholarships and grants that pay for her tuition.

Now, two years later, Doughten raves about Queens, both the quality of instruction and the warmth of faculty and staff.

"I've waited my entire life," she said of her college education. "I didn't want to go to a place of any lesser quality than Queens."

Doughten plans to keep going after earning her bachelor's degree in psychology and political science. She wants to pursue a doctorate degree in social psychology, and then teach at the college level, focusing on the social psychology of cult involvement, recovery and prevention.

Since she overcame such personal and social barriers to attend college, Doughten said anyone can.

"If you want to go to college, go," she said. "If you say, 'It'll take me eight years' - eight years will pass, regardless of whether you go to school or not. Wouldn't you rather have the degree?"

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