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Brent Zoubek

No matter how many aptitude tests you take.

No matter how much you enjoy a field of study.

No matter what your ACT scores show -- sometimes, life is still the best adviser.

But that advice doesn't always arrive before commencement.

A program at Doane helps its alumni make their way to a new path, no matter how many years have passed since earning their undergraduate degree.

For Brent Zoubek, the HELPS program and its two free semesters of coursework were the motivation for a fresh start and a new career path.

When Brent graduated with a business administration degree from Doane's Crete campus in 1999, he pictured himself working in a marketing firm.

But he took a job with his brother's construction company in the meantime and found he liked that, too.

The longer he stayed in construction, the less he thought about the business career.

Last year - 10 years beyond his undergraduate degree - he took a look at his life; what works; what doesn't.

He was still in construction, but his body was telling him it was time to quit.

He had a beautiful family - wife, Lindsey, and two young daughters - who were a big part of any equation that involved starting over.

He thought about what made him happy besides family and the answer was obvious: teaching and coaching.

He'd returned to the football field at Dorchester Public Schools a few years ago as co-head football coach, at first because of a love for the game. As an outside linebacker for the Doane Tigers, he'd been a part of one of the best team's in the college's history, a group that went 11-1 and advanced to the national semi-finals in 1997.

Coaching and teaching felt so natural he started filling in as a substitute teacher in the winters when the construction business was slow.

"I got into the classroom and fell in love with it. Being around the kids made me want to be a fulltime teacher and coach."

But knowing what you want to do and how to accomplish it are two different things.

On a whim, he contacted longtime Doane staff member, Cody Vance, now assistant athletic director.

Brent asked Cody what it would take to earn an education degree.

"'He told me: I think I have some good news for you.'"

The good news was HELPS (Higher Education for Life Planning Systems), a program that provides two semesters of free tuition to graduates who have gone into the workplace and not been able to flourish.

He'd need four semesters for the education major with a K-6 endorsement. The two free semesters made starting over a possibility.

"HELPS really motivated me to start. I could see that I could do this and get it done in four semesters."

It was motivation he'd need at times.

College as a married father of two bears little resemblance to the carefree, straight-out-of-high-school, everything-revolves-around football days of college.

A supportive wife (who helped him carve out some uninterrupted study time at home) was key, along with learning to manage time.

"When I have a break between classes I study. Time management is everything."

He earned a perfect 4.0 his first semesters back at college and is now enrolled in Doane's Master of Education program. He can see the difference between picturing yourself in a career and following your heart.

"This is what I want to do. It's so neat to be a part of the kids' learning process and have the chance to make a difference in their lives."

Information on the HELPS program:

Higher Education Life Planning Systems (HELPS) is a program designed for graduates of Doane's Crete campus who wish to return to the Crete campus to seek further education that prepares them for better career opportunities. Candidates must demonstrate that by returning for a specific progression of courses, career advancement is possible.

HELPS participants must be full-time students. They can earn tuition-free undergraduate credit during two academic terms and an interterm (summer excluded.) If their program exceeds two academic terms, they must pay for the additional credit hours required.

Graduates must have completed their Doane degree at least two years prior to eligibility. An application for admission and detailed guidelines are available from the Vice President for Admission.