Back to the school house


Michael Wright

Max Che is a 33-year-old family man that’s trying to further his education.

By Michael Wright, Staff Writer

Instead of kissing their caps and gowns goodbye, Max Che and Sarah Bright have decided to go back to school to get their own bachelor’s degrees, a decade after typical students might have completed theirs.

A number of the students enrolled in colleges across the country are not a part of the demographic set for your average college student. Many of these nontraditional students have already completed major milestones in their lives.

Che is a 33-year-old who spends most of his time providing for his wife and two kids. He is attending Hawaii Pacific University for the remainder of his military science degree. He is originally from China but moved to the United States in 1999. Che spent his teenage years outside of the U.S., so he never developed the mentality of an American high school student. As a result, he never adopted a party attitude toward school.

School was never a good fit for him. He felt it was awkward being there since he, moving from China, would’ve been a 17-year-old freshman.

“I felt so old being in high school so I talked to my parents to see if I could just work instead of going to school,” the HPU junior said. “So that’s when I decided to work full-time. It didn’t work that well though so that’s why I went back to school again.”

After finally receiving a high school diploma at 20-years-old, he eventually enlisted in the Army in 2006. Since then, he deployed to Afghanistan for 10 months to help fix a variety of equipment. He also progressed into a leadership position as a staff sergeant.

In an ironic twist, Che is deciding to return to school and is in the same awkward situation as his high school days.

On the other hand, the 27-year-old Bright is facing a communication barrier with her younger classmates.

Unfortunately, the two are dealing with issues that are uncommon to the majority of students. Che is forced to divide his time between his job, his family, and his studies. Bright has struggled with the varying levels of maturity among students. These dilemmas are causing an undesirable burden on their lives.

“It’s kind of hard,” he said. “I would’ve rather done my education before I had even married that way I would have had more time to concentrate. I have to go to school as a full-time student and still support my family. So, that’s the hard part.”

An added problem is the lack of family time that he is able to enjoy because he is forced to commute from Miliani to Kaneohe to get to the HPU campus. It takes away at least 90 minutes a day round trip from his already limited amount of free time.

Che was thankful that the age difference is not causing an awkward setting among his younger counterparts, unlike his high school days.

“Everybody is talking to each other,” he said. “Everybody knows each other before we even start class so that’s a good part.

On the other hand, Bright’s interactions with the younger students have not always been pleasant. Since she was 23 when she started her freshman year for forensic sciences at Chaminade, and there was a five-year gap between the average students and her. Since she had already developed a degree of life experience and maturity, listening to the dramatic conversations of her younger counterparts proved to be tiring.

In addition, many of these conversations occured during a lecture. This makes it more difficult for Bright to focus on the content since she has been diagnosed with ADHD. She has been forced to correct her peers’ behavior on multiple occasions. As the years have progressed, she has said that these incidents have drastically decreased.

Che plans to successfully finish his degree in May 2017. He is still undecided about what his career path will be after he graduates but is hopeful for the future.

Bright is completing her final semester and will graduate this December.