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Chico State

No Room for Error

Corina Yetter leans against a shelf of books in the Meriam Library.
Jessica Bartlett/University Phot

Corina Yetter is photographed in the Meriam Library on Tuesday, October 24, 2017 in Chico, Calif. (Jessica Bartlett/University Photographer)

Re-entry scholarship helps student chase dreams and overcome obstacles

Corina Yetter has big dreams and no time to waste.

Mike and Corina Yetter sitting on pumpkins in a field, smiling.
Corina Yetter (right) and her husband, Mike, (left) have supported each other through devastating losses, career pivots, scary moments, and educational pursuits. “Sometimes I wonder if I can do this,” she said. “But I know what my goal is and I work toward it one day at a time.” (Courtesy photo)

The business major has been waiting more than 20 years to finish her bachelor’s degree, collecting experiences that have shaped her aspirations to practice law and taught her to persevere against the odds.

She earned her associate’s degree and legal secretary certificate in 1992 from Yuba College, graduating with a new interest in law. She held several clerk positions while her husband, Mike, worked construction. With a healthy economy and booming construction industry, neither she nor Mike went on to finish their bachelor’s degrees.

They were doing well for more than a decade, and Yetter was able to stay home after her children were born. Then, the unimaginable happened.

“We lost everything in 2009,” Yetter said.

The Great Recession devastated the construction business where Mike worked as a project manager. He was laid off that year, securing another job only to be laid off again months later.

Their house went into foreclosure and the couple filed for bankruptcy, managing to stay in the house for more than a year until it was auctioned by the bank.

“We were within a week of being homeless,” said Yetter.

In 2010, they decided Mike would return to school first. To make ends meet while he earned his associate degree in nursing, Mike worked as a warehouse laborer and Yetter started a janitorial business.

Then, they faced another round of setbacks.

Mike was laid off from the warehouse in 2012, and continued working for Yetter’s business as a handyman until he graduated in 2015. Shortly after he began working at Colusa Hospital as a fulltime registered nurse, the hospital closed in 2016.

“Somewhere in the middle of this whole nightmare we went through, our daughter had open heart surgery on June 21, 2012,” said Yetter. “That was harder than any other experience. I literally stayed awake for two full nights praying.”

Yetter's teenage children, Jason and Brianna, sit in a field on large pumpkins
Re-entry student Corina Yetter juggles her three-hour commute, coursework, and aspirations to practice law with being “the parent on duty” for her teenagers Logan (left) and Brianna (right). (Courtesy photo)

Yetter says her daughter, Brianna, had always been a low-energy kid. But after she fainted twice at 10, they battled Medi-Cal for almost two years to get proper testing before she was diagnosed with an often-deadly right coronary artery defect.

Yetter says Brianna’s surgery was her most defining moment.

“I realized life is precious,” she said. “And we must not wait to fulfill our dreams.”

She returned to Yuba College in 2014 and hoped for a smooth path to a four-year degree.

“I always knew I wanted to come to Chico, because I wanted follow my father’s footsteps,” said Yetter, whose father, Donald Talkington (Industrial Arts, ’77), studied in the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management.

But, first she had to complete a second associate’s degree at Yuba College to meet Chico State’s new transfer requirements before enrolling in fall 2017. Mike supports their family financially as a nurse at Rideout Hospital, where he’s worked since May 2016.

Now that she’s officially a Wildcat, the weight of her responsibilities at home and school are undeniable—and starkly different than many of her younger classmates.

“There’s no room for error,” said Yetter, who has to schedule her five classes and time on campus around a three-hour commute, her husband’s hectic operating room schedule, and her children’s sports and school activities.

She hopes to eventually volunteer for the Community Legal Information Center on campus, but it’s been difficult finding the time. She now commutes 95 miles roundtrip to campus from the Sutter home she shares with Mike and her teenagers, Brianna and Logan. Every morning, she packs her lunch and heads to campus, where she knows the next 8 hours will pass like a whirlwind.

“I can barely take a bathroom break,” said Yetter. “I’m eating while I’m studying. Everything is scheduled.”

She says finding enough time for group assignments or to build her resume by joining student organizations has been a huge challenge, because they often require night meetings that she can’t attend.

Corina Yetter and her father stand in front of the Kendall Hall main entrance archway, under a sign that says Administration
Corina Yetter (left) is proud to join her father, alumnus Donald Talkington, (right) as a Wildcat. She says, “Chico State’s motto is Today Decides Tomorrow, but in our case yesterday decided today.”

“I really enjoy being around everyone who is younger—they are close to my kids’ ages—but, at the same time, they don’t have the same sense of urgency,” she said. “This is my whole life. My whole future is on the line. I can’t afford to screw it up; I have to get it right the first time.”

The scholarship she received from the Crankstart Foundation, which established scholarships for Chico State re-entry students like Yetter in 2017, has been crucial to her ability to attend college.

“I literally fell apart in tears when I got the [scholarship) letter, because I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “You know when you dream of something for 20-something years? And you think it will never happen? I feel so full of gratitude.”

The scholarship is helping offset the money she has to spend on gas and reducing the amount of debt her family has to take on as she completes her marketing degree, which is a first step toward law school—her ultimate dream.

“I worked for a public defender, and I just really love helping people,” she said. “So many people feel like legal services are out of reach… My biggest thing is that I want to represent people who have been victimized and even the scales between those who have the means to hire the attorneys and those who don’t.”

Yetter says she has no doubt that she will become the first woman in her family to earn a college degree. Brianna is a high school senior, which motivates Yetter to push forward, full-speed ahead.

“I am going to do whatever it takes,” she said. “I’m just super driven, and all of this is completely worth it.”