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IUN’s Class of 2024: Finding stability through education

CIS graduate Breyah Barnes sought a career of longevity by returning to school

Apr 22, 2024

A women smiles while working on a computer. 2024 IU Northwest graduate Breyah Barnes smiles inside the School of the Arts at Indiana University Northwest.

For Breyah Barnes, returning to school was a necessity.

A mother of two boys, working long hours, she wanted a career — not just another job.

In the summer of 2021, Barnes began researching schools and needed a solution to fit her demanding schedule. Indiana University Northwest became the obvious choice.

Barnes met with Candace Clark, an IU Northwest academic advisor, and informed Clark about the barriers she was facing. Clark assured Barnes IU Northwest could accommodate her schedule, and graduation would take place in the spring of 2025 if she stayed the course.

That timeline did not work for Barnes. She decided she needed to graduate sooner.

“I buckled down,” she said. “I did not have much of a social life, I limited my contact with people.”

Thankfully, Breyah was able to transfer credits when she attended Ivy Tech Community College years earlier. Still, she had a way to go before earning her bachelor’s degree.

If Barnes was returning to school, she wanted a skill that would lead her future career in providing long-term stability for her and her family, so she chose Computer information systems (CIS) since she’s always had a knack with computers.

“I wanted to get into a field that would be lucrative, essential and with technology constantly changing I would always have job security,” Barnes said.

She continued working full-time as a case manager for the Indiana Department of Corrections during the week, commuting an hour to and from daily, in addition to her rigorous schedule. Barnes worked as a home-based caseworker at Infinity Counseling & Wellness Center while maintaining a spot on the Dean’s List throughout her academic career.

Many of her classes were online except for one of her final classes, which was on campus, but she was able to work with her professors so she could continue working while pursuing her degree.

“I’ve met and encountered some really good faculty and staff that have been really helpful in me obtaining my degree,” Barnes said. “All you must do is start. Figure the rest out along the way because those barriers and roadblocks can be worked out.”

See, Barnes has always enjoyed school. She enjoyed learning. Subjects like English and science came naturally.

It’s funny she ended up at IU Northwest because in high school she participated in what is now called the TRIO Upward Bound program, where students would visit a college campus for six weeks during the summer, earning credits toward a college degree. She went to IU Bloomington Upward Bound, thanking Marshall Chaifetz and Danielle Chapman for the opportunities.

But when Barnes had her first son, providing for him became her top priority. For years, she found her way until she decided she wanted more.

“Not finishing what I started was not an option,” she said, explaining how she was determined not to live paycheck to paycheck as many Americans do.

Barnes thanked her support system for helping her through the challenges she encountered. Therapist, mentor and life coach Dr. Mashone Parker-Wright was a driving force for Barnes in this journey.

And Barnes’ academic journey is not done yet. In December 2023, she graduated with her bachelor’s. On May 13 — just five days after Commencement — Barnes will begin working toward her master’s degree in cybersecurity and risk management at IU Northwest with the hopes of working for the Federal Government in data analysis, computer forensics or as a Child exploitation analyst.

Was it easy? Of course not. Ideal? Probably not. However, Barnes wasn’t going to let anything impede her ability to create stability for her family.

“I’m ecstatic,” she said. “A milestone has been met. Through everything, I persevered.

“The lesson in this is: I do not want my children to give up, which looks different for them both as they grow into their personalities. School is not for everyone and there are other means to be successful or make a living without a degree,” Barnes said, mentioning how her twin brother is a trucker and her youngest brother owns a barbershop in Dallas.

She added: “I’ve had coworkers, people ask me, ‘How do you do it, Barnes?’ You must be disciplined, focused. I do not have a partner or spouse that I can piggyback on. That is what drove me.”

Read more about IUN’s Class of 2024

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