Western Illinois Alumna Proves It’s Never Too Late to Fulfill a Dream
MACOMB/Moline, IL – – Western Illinois University alumna Ramona Bellino would have graduated from college in 1971, but life had other plans.
“The day after I graduated from St. Casimir High School, I entered the workforce,” said Bellino, the oldest of nine children. “I was uncertain at that point about the career path I wanted to follow, so my plan was to work, save money, and go to college a bit later.”
Bellino knew her journey would take her in many different directions, but little did she know who would come into her life and change it completely.
“I have met a lot of interesting people along the way, but for me, the most significant encounter of my life occurred while attending the wedding of a co-worker; at the wedding reception, the bride introduced me to her family friend, a young man who had recently graduated from Western Illinois University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Law Enforcement and Justice Administration, and who was then in training at the police academy,” said Bellino. “Little did I suspect that I had just met my future husband.”
Looking back, Bellino remembers the quest of completing her degree while raising four children. She enrolled at Oakton Community College focusing in computers, word and data processing, and was eventually offered a position at a nearby elementary school as a school secretary. She later finished her Associate of Arts degree with a concentration in Social Studies and Business.
Fast forward 19 years, Bellino took an early retirement to help with family needs.
“It was during this time that thoughts about my once dream of earning a bachelor’s degree began to re-surface,” said Bellino.
Bellino did her homework and discovered that she could earn a Bachelor of Arts in General Studies entirely online at WIU.
“I met so many wonderful professors, advisors and classmates along the way, and learned so much from all of them. I went from wondering if I could do this, to being pleasantly surprised at being honored, at the age of 73, as both a WIU College Scholar and the General Studies Department Scholar for Spring 2023, and now I get to talk about how my husband and I graduated from the same university, just 52 years apart,” said Bellino.
Bellino loves writing, reading, traveling and volunteering for meaningful causes, in addition to conducting genealogical research as a hobby for many years.
Although her journey was not what she originally envisioned as a young woman, she is proud of how far she has come and the person she is today.
“I would tell anyone that it’s never too late and you’re never too old to chase cherished dreams, even when they seem out of reach – don’t give up, and don’t be afraid to ask for help – empower yourself by reaching out to professors, advisors, classmates and mentors with your questions – take deep breaths and try to keep your sense of humor,” said Bellino. “Change is inevitable, so try to be resilient when it happens. Last, but not least, a mantra which I have found to be personally compelling is the word ‘ephphatha,’ an ancient Aramaic term which means ‘Be opened.’ It reminds me of how important and useful it is for us to keep our eyes, ears, minds and hearts open when it comes to opportunities for meeting new people and places and learning new things.”
For more information on WIU’s General Studies program, visit wiu.edu/generalstudies.