Breast Cancer Survivor Follows Her Passions by Pursuing an Education Degree
Cynthia Gayden, of Vaiden, Mississippi, graduated from Mississippi State University in 1999 with a bachelor of science in microbiology and a minor in business. After enduring hardships and discovering her passions, she decided that a career change was in her future, and she knew that online education would allow her to accomplish her newfound goals.
In high school, Gayden was the Valedictorian of her class. The adjustment from high school to college was not an easy one for her, and she struggled to choose a career path. “I was going from major to major just trying to see what I liked and what I didn’t like. I wanted to see what the most lucrative career would be. My focus was wrong. I was in marketing and that is how I ended up with a business minor. I really liked the business aspect, but I didn’t love marketing. I changed my major from marketing to microbiology. I love science. I love learning about the body,” said Gayden.
Ironically, after graduation in 1999, Gayden accepted a job in the business field in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She worked as an insurance agent for 12 years. “When I was working in insurance, I always found myself taking on mentoring and teaching roles. I was always asked to lead training materials, mentor someone, or help someone. I have always liked doing it, and people have always recognized those qualities in me,” said Gayden.
In 2011, she moved back to Mississippi to be closer to her family. “I did not want to stay in the insurance industry. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. Before I ended up starting a different career, I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Gayden.
While Gayden was fighting breast cancer, she recognized that life was too short to pursue a career that you are not passionate about. She continued to wonder what career path she should pursue after beating breast cancer that would allow her to make an impact on others. “I wondered what career did I want to pursue? Teaching kept coming to mind. I wanted to be a teacher because I have such a strong desire to help people. I knew I was good at it. It makes me feel good when people understand what I am telling them and then can do it themselves. That brings me such great joy! All those things coming together made me decide that I was going to go through with this,” said Gayden.
With the decision to become a teacher to pour into young people and help them become the best version of themselves, came the decision to go back to school. “Of course, I wanted to come back home to Mississippi State, but I knew that I needed to continue to work while in school. Online was the only way I could see to be able to work it around my life. I decided to look and see what MSU has, and low and behold it is the only elementary education program in the state that you can complete completely online! After finding that out, I didn’t even look anywhere else,” said Gayden.
Currently, Gayden works in an optometrist’s office helping with insurance, billing, and other business and secretarial tasks. “Since I was a kid, I have always wanted to be a secretary. At my current job, I get to do a little bit of that because it is a small office. I love it! It made me think about something else I wanted to do as a kid. I wanted to be a teacher as a kid. I thought if I loved being a secretary, then I will love teaching. I thought to myself, why not try teaching? What if I really like it? What if this is my purpose,” said Gayden.
Gayden had some wonderful people in her life who encouraged her to take the leap of faith and begin her journey of becoming a teacher. “One of my brothers and my sister both worked as teachers’ assistants. They really encouraged me to go for it. My best friend, who is like a sister to me, has always told me how good I am with kids. She has five kids who I claim as my nieces and nephew. When I told her that I was thinking about becoming a teacher, she told me that she could really see that in me, and she encouraged me that I would be a great teacher,” said Gayden.
Online education is making it possible for Gayden to pursue her passion to become a teacher. The most rewarding part of pursuing this degree for Gayden is the fact that she is taking steps to accomplish her goal. “It can be stressful working and going to school online. I am a part time care giver to my 81-year-old mom. I decided to take the minimum of 12 hours each semester to help me balance everything. I have learned to prioritize things. I keep telling myself that this is only for two years, and it will be worth it! I have got to hustle and do what I must do to reach my goal. I never think about giving up. That is just not an option. There were some days where I didn’t see how it would happen, but somehow, thank God, it always worked out. I am not perfect, but I always give my best effort,” said Gayden.
Gayden encourages others to make the most of their lives and follow their passions. “Whatever stage of life you are in, whether you are young and have a desire or whether you are older and you still have that desire, follow your heart. Do your best. Put your best food forward. People will see it. Your best will always pay off, but your best doesn’t always mean perfection,” said Gayden.
Today, Gayden is a breast cancer survivor of eight years. Her strength, resilience, and desire to help others will continue to lead her to become an impactful teacher. “First and foremost, I want my students to know that learning is fun. I want to help them realize what their gifts are. I know that there are people in my life who told me when I was younger that I would be a great teacher, but I don’t think I heard it enough. I want my students to go ahead and purse their goals instead of waiting 30 to 40 years to decide to pursue them. If I see a gift in a child, I want to tell them and be a guiding force for kids, so they don’t get lost,” said Gayden.
Are you like Cynthia Gayden and wanting to change careers and pursue your passions? MSU Online has over 60 online degree programs. Find the right one for you by visiting our academic programs websites!. Wanting to learn more about the Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education? Visit the Elementary Education homepage.
Written by Hannah Oliver