News & Features

Florissant couple heads back to class

St. Louis American

May 2009

By Anne Shaw Heinrich

Fontbonne OPTIONS student Randy Smith doesn’t discourage his seven children from dreaming.

“I tell them that all of those castles they build in the sky are possible, but they do need an education,” says Smith, who, together with his wife, Trentiss, has decided to take his own advice.

The two enrolled in the Fontbonne University OPTIONS Gateway curriculum together in January 2009. OPTIONS Gateway is designed to provide working adults a jumpstart toward a bachelor’s degree. Randy gives his wife credit for getting the two of them motivated to start.

“I always had the idea in the back of my mind that I would go back to school,” says Trentiss. “When we learned about the opportunity with Fontbonne OPTIONS, I said, ‘Okay, we’re taking it. We’re going to do this.’”

Randy, who works as the night supervisor of housekeeping at the University’s main campus in Clayton, is taking one course at a time. Trentiss, a bus aide for the Hazelwood School District, has chosen to pursue a dual track. By taking two courses at a time, she can potentially earn 48 credits in a short 19 months.

Neither Randy nor Trentiss pursued their education seriously after high school, but both believe that starting now has its benefits.

“The kids see us doing our homework, and they really love it when we’re working on a subject at the same time,” says Trentiss. “I think we’re being a good example for them. I’ve noticed I don’t have to remind them to get going on their homework as much as I used to.”

The Smiths agree that going back to school together has brought them even closer, giving them opportunities to communicate on an even broader level. The experience has also allowed them to appreciate one another’s strengths in the classroom.

“Randy is a really good reader and writer, and I’m stronger in math,” says Trentiss. “We’re both interested in completing our BBA and then master’s degrees. We’d like to go into counseling, helping married couples, families and children. That’s our ultimate goal.”

Both Smiths enjoy the accelerated pace of the program and being in class with other working adults. Randy says he appreciates how accessible the OPTIONS instructors have been when he needed extra help or advice. Trentiss is building her writing skills and applying critical thinking skills she has developed over time.

“I’m definitely a better student now than I would have been 20 years ago,” she says. “I’m more mature and able to look at things with a different level of experience. I’m so glad this is my time now.”

Fontbonne OPTIONS is designed specifically to accommodate the needs of busy, working adults with convenient, practical and accelerated undergraduate and graduate degree programs. OPTIONS locations include Fontbonne’s Clayton campus, Florissant, South County, Chesterfield, downtown St. Louis, and a new center in Brentwood.

For more information, call 314-863-2220 or visit

with permission, copyright (2009) St. Louis American / Choices & Careers