Montgomery County Community College student Grace McGinnis is a bit of a worker bee. As a first-generation college student, she’s in the process of juggling going to school full time to earn an associate’s degree in Education in the Early Years, while also holding down both full-time and part-time jobs.
McGinnis’ typical day begins at 9 a.m. when she logs online to start her schoolwork. She works for about three hours trying to get as much done as she can, before heading to her job as a nanny at noon. She works for another seven hours, before coming to her apartment in Bryn Mawr to do more schoolwork. She’s been known to work late into the night, she said. Then it’s off to bed in order to begin the whole process the next day. On Mondays and Fridays, she works her second job at a pre-school.
As she nears the end of her time at MCCC, her hard work has begun to pay off.
McGinnis was recently named the very first recipient of The Dr. Victoria L. Bastecki-Perez Presidential Scholarship Award sponsored by Ken Baker. Last year, in honor of the inauguration of its sixth president, Montgomery County Community College Foundation established 11 new presidential scholarships for students, with a focus on first-generation college students.
McGinnis was enormously proud to be among the first group of students to receive the scholarship.
“I feel awesome; I feel really great about that,” she said. “I’m completely financially independent, as a lot of Montco students are, so it’s been really helpful.”
McGinnis, 23, originally from Havertown, Pa., attended Haverford High School. After graduation in 2017, she went to a small, four-year, liberal arts, college in Maryland but left the following year because she wasn’t enjoying the experience. She instead began working full-time at a gym daycare. From there, she started her job as a nanny in 2019 and fell in love with working with children. That helped spur her decision to pursue teaching as a career and she enrolled at MCCC in the spring of 2021.
“I just love working with children, and I love watching them learn something new,” she said. “It’s really special.”
When she began her first classes at MCCC, most of the world was still working entirely from home. McGinnis said she wasn’t sure what to expect when she started her online classes.
“At first I was doing two accelerated classes at a time,” she said. “In the summer I did a few more. Then in the fall I did a full load of classes. All the online classes have been great.”
Despite everyone working from home, McGinnis only had glowing marks to give her professors.
“Everyone’s really kind and helpful,” she said. “They’re always making themselves available for me whenever I need it … even if I email them late at night because I’m doing schoolwork at weird hours.”
McGinnis has one more class left to take before she graduates in the fall. Afterward, she said she plans to transfer to a four-year institution to complete a bachelor’s degree in education.
“Montco has partnerships with other schools,” she said. “So, I filled out the application and checked every school on the list.”
Her end goal would be to become a pre-school teacher, she said.
When this worker bee does get a moment of free time, McGinnis said she owns an electric scooter that she loves to ride when the weather is nice. She also likes spending time with her girlfriend or watching her favorite shows on TV.
For those first-generation students interested in following in her footsteps, McGinnis said she’s motivated by achieving success in the classroom.
“The harder I work, the better grades I get,” she said, “and I feel better. So, focus on school is my advice.”