Unstoppable: Determination Pays off for eVersity Student

Every student at the University of Arkansas System eVersity has a story of perseverance. Amy Fendley’s tale ranks among the best of them.

The Oklahoma native and business manager for the Arkadelphia Human Development Center started her march toward a degree four decades ago, never losing sight of the prize.

“I knew I was smart enough to get a degree,” she said. “I’ve got three kids that all have college degrees; one has a master’s and one’s in law school. There’s no reason that I can’t get a degree. And, it’s for me; it’s not for anybody else. My mom worked on getting her bachelor’s degree over 40 years. She was dyslexic. She had some mental problems, but she wanted that degree because no one else in her family had one. Her tenacity got her that degree. I’m like, if she can get her degree by gosh, I can get mine.”

Fendley’s story starts at Lockesburg High School in Sevier County where, due to a lack of extracurricular activities, she attacked her studies with gusto. By the end of her junior year, she needed only one English credit to graduate, so she approached the school board with a unique request.

“I went to the school board and said, ‘Look, my mom is going to college in Arkadelphia at Henderson (State University) and I’m going to have to move, too,” Fendley said. “Can I take college English this summer and have you put that towards my credit and then give me a diploma at the end of the summer?’”

She got approval to do that and completed two college English courses that summer, only to have the school board reverse its previous decision, insisting she take seven classes to get her diploma.

“I was like, no, you don’t have seven subjects for me to take, so I’m going to Henderson. They’ve already accepted me,” she said with a laugh. “I didn’t have a high school diploma, but I went to college.”

Fendley’s time at college was cut short by her mother taking ill and the strain of working the night shift at the local Waffle House to make ends meet. A year later, she tried to go back, but her new husband frowned on the idea and she dropped out yet again. A decade went by.

“I’d remarried and I opened up my own business,” she said. “I had a video store, but morning hours, we didn’t do anything so I told my husband I’m going to go back to school and he’s like, ‘Do it.’”

Buoyed by the moral support, she completed a couple of semesters but then became pregnant and quit to raise her family. As her youngest was graduating from Henderson State University, she ran across an ad for eVersity and an old familiar desire flared up once more.

“I had looked at the University of Phoenix and other ones, but they were so expensive it was just ridiculous,” she said. “I looked at eVersity and it was affordable, plus working for a state agency you get a little bit of a discount off of that. I told my husband I want to get my degree and he said just do it.”

Fendley quickly made up for the lost time. She started in 2017 and earned two associate degrees by 2019. She’s currently working on her bachelor’s degree in business, which she will complete in 2021, 40 years after she left high school.

And she’s also not shy about challenging other people to accomplish their dreams of higher education through eVersity.

“My question is, what are you waiting for?” she said. “The price is right; you can’t go to any college and get an education for the price that eVersity charges. I love it because I can do the class and still do what I need to do at work. And six weeks is easy; the classes are challenging, but six weeks and then you’re done. It just makes you feel good whenever you get through a class and you’re like, ‘I tackled that one.’”

All of this has Fendley feeling accomplished, strong and empowered.

“I watched my mother struggle for 40 years to get her degree, but she got it and that was a sense of accomplishment for her,” she said. “It’s a sense of accomplishment for me. I’m not doing it for anybody else but me and it makes me feel proud.”