Jessica Baltimore has worked at PPL Corporation, an energy supplier headquartered in Allentown, for 32 years, an exception in this day and age when people tend to change jobs every few years. Perhaps just as surprising, she has been going to college for most of that time in her quest to earn a bachelor’s degree. On May 14, the Cedar Crest College student will realize her dream.
“In the beginning, it was really more of a challenge for me. I would be the first daughter of my mom’s to have a college degree (out of seven children, all girls),” said Baltimore, who began raising a family shortly after high school. “Oh my goodness—I am over the moon. I cannot believe it. When I started, I was in my early 30’s and now I’m in my early 50’s. It’s been a ride, but it’s been a really great one. These last two years have really been extraordinary for me.”
The last two years have been extra special for Baltimore because up until that time, she was taking classes without tracking her progress toward a degree. It wasn’t until that point that she realized she was getting close to fulfilling her credits for a degree in business administration, as well as the economics minor.
“I would keep in touch with my adviser, (Assistant Professor of Business) Chris Duelfer, and one day I said to him, ‘I don’t know when I’ll ever get this done,’” she said. “He told me, ‘Jessica, you only need so many credits.’ It wasn’t until then I realized I was almost done. I began doubling up on classes to complete my degree.”
The Whitehall resident began her college career at a community college in Harrisburg in the early 1990’s, and moved to Allentown with her job in 1992. She began taking courses at Cedar Crest four years after moving to the area, and she has never looked back. She said she took courses for self-fulfillment of a personal goal, but that they have also been of great help to her at her job—where she supervises a help desk.
“A lot of what I’ve learned I’ve been able to actually apply in real life at my job. That makes it that much more exciting and valuable for me in my job. Pursuing higher education has been instrumental in past promotions at my company,” Baltimore said.
At one point, attending Cedar Crest College was a family affair, as Jessica was joined by her daughter, Tonesha, who graduated in the mid-2000s.
“It was great. We would do homework assignments together and help each other out. She even had a class previously that I was taking, so she was able to give me some pointers,” said Baltimore. “She lives in New York now, and she’s coming home next week for the graduation celebration.”
She encourages adults who are considering advancing their education to take a course or two and see if returning to school feels right.
“After being in the working world and coming back to school, you realize how important it is to get higher education. When I came back I was totally focused. I found it exciting being exposed to things I would never have been exposed to on my own,” she said. My experience at Cedar Crest has been remarkable. I’ve been very fortunate to have very good teachers. (Assistant Professor of Business) Arlene Peltola is awesome. She is definitely a great teacher and so inspiring, so encouraging. I just learned so much from her.”
The teacher was equally impressed with her pupil’s intelligence and persistence.
“Jess is one of those Cedar Crest students who engages both her professor and the rest of the class in a rich discussion each and every time she raises her hand to contribute,” said Peltola. “Her likable personality and perseverance make her a wonderful CCC graduate, and I see great things ahead for her.”