Offering a Second Chance

Meet Noa Eagles, one of the McBride scholars at Bryn Mawr College

By Devanshi Vaid

Noa Eagles is more than just your average Bryn Mawr student. A junior in college, she also happens to be a full-time wife, a mother to a four-year-old boy, and an expecting mother to a child due to be born in July.

None of this would be apparent from just a glance at her though.

On this day, she is dressed in a grey, full-sleeved Bryn Mawr hoodie and skinny jeans, with her arms adorned in bracelets and the occasional tattoo. This is matched with her wide, free smile that she wears on a regular basis. In passing, she appears to be just another student, though a little bit older.

Eagles, 33, is originally from Lancaster Pa. She is currently living in Havertown Pa. with her husband Patrick and son, Logan. Along with being a commuter student, she is one of the 20 McBride students at Bryn Mawr.

The McBride program is designed to give students of “non-traditional age” — they must be above 24 years of age to apply for the program — a second chance at college if for some reason they were unable to attend or complete their college education following high school. The program resembles a scholarship program and students are eligible for funding to help them pay the costs of attending the elite college.

The program, while helpful in the purpose it serves, was not always this way. Eagles said it was originally designed to cater towards “rich Main Line women who had nothing to do with their time.” When it was started, it was a source of financial gain for the college. Much has changed since then – the program now works as a source of funding and support – reaching out to women who need it more, and helping them do what it takes to both attend and graduate from Bryn Mawr.

The change in the program was met with a similar change in the number of McBrides that were admitted every year – the trend over the last few years is that five McBrides have been accepted into Bryn Mawr every year. Eagles isn’t complaining about the smaller numbers, as far as she can see, the smaller number allows for each of them to get a lot more individual attention and support – which goes a long way.

When describing her fellow McBride Scholars, Eagles said, “We all have stories to tell, we all have had some sort of interruption in our lives that didn’t allow us to go directly from high school to college. But at the same time, we’re all diverse – our stories tie us together but also highlight what makes us unique.” She paused to grin, her eyes gleaming, and continued, “We’re all fucking brilliant.”

Eagles knows about stories. Her own is an indicator of her determination and strength.

In high school Eagles had applied and been accepted into Millersville University. Following her graduation however, at age 17, she decided not to attend the college and chose instead to move out of her house and gain her independence. She lived downtown and worked for a while. Soon after, she was enrolled in Harrisburg community college and had a job working as a rehabilitation agent in a halfway house for people who had just released from mental health institutions.

She was forced to stop working and drop out of college a little while later – causing the largest and longest break in her schooling. She was hospitalized for an eating disorder that she had been battling with since she was 10 years old. Eagles when talking about her disorder, said “It almost killed me several times… I was constantly in and out of hospitals. I had a heart attack when I was 19.”

She battled with her disorder until she was 26 years old. And then she found psychodrama.

Psychodrama is a method of therapy in which patients utilize dramatization, role playing, and self presentation to investigate and gain understanding about their lives. The process includes elements of theatre (often including a stage and props) to re-enact real life situations so that they have the opportunity to reflect on their behavior and cope with their traumas.

Eagles, a Sociology major at Bryn Mawr with a potential Psychology minor, wants to be a psychodramatist. She hopes to specialize in trauma and eating disorders. “It’s what helped me, it helped me heal through my past and my traumas, it got me out of the situation I was in.” she said. “And I want to learn how to give that back.”

Soon after her battle with herself, Eagles moved closer to Philadelphia, aiming to apply to and attend Temple University. Not quite ready for it yet, she decided to work odd jobs and nanny instead. After three years of doing that she discovered that Bryn Mawr had a McBride program, and she “never looked back.”

When she first applied to Bryn Mawr, a dean informed her that while her application was well received, the fact remained that she hadn’t been in school for a while. And so Eagles attended Delaware Community College for a year – and reapplied to Bryn Mawr College – this time with a successful outcome.

“It’s been a rocky path to get here” said Eagles. “But now this is where I’m supposed to be. I mean… this is where I was always supposed to be, it just took me a while to get here.”


So now that she’s at Bryn Mawr, how does she juggle all of it?

“Time management” said Eagles. “There is no way I would be able to do anything without it.”

Eagles takes three classes a semester, and arranges her schedule so that she only has classes on Mondays and Wednesdays while Logan, her son, is in preschool. The rest of the week, Logan stays in school, and she spends her time writing papers and doing research.

“Sometimes when I’m studying, he’ll come and sit on my books or computer and that’s when I know. I know I have to put away my school stuff and give him individual attention” said Eagles.

Though, she is sure that Logan understands why she is in school and why she studies so hard. “I’ve explained it to him,” she said “and he’s very proud of me. He’ll tell everyone he meets that his mommy goes to Bryn Mawr. He knows it’s a big deal.”

Even with her supportive son, it hasn’t always been easy for Eagles.

“There are times when I’ve had to take him to class with me. Once, I took him to a Penn sign language class I was taking, and he sat in it with me, with his portable DVD player and his coloring book,” she said. “Luckily, he loved it. He thinks he’s hot stuff going to school with mommy.”

Logan loves Bryn Mawr. Eagles brings him over every now and then to play with his “friends” at the college. According to her, he knows that he cannot attend the college because he is a boy. However, he is always convinced that “everybody at Bryn Mawr loves [him].”

For Eagles, being a good mother is top priority. This is followed by being a good therapist. She is convinced however, that the two responsibilities feed off each other.

Eagles and her husband want to have four kids – and with one son, and another baby on the way, they are making their way to that goal.

How does Eagle’s expectancy change her plans? According to her, all its doing is “throwing a kink in her thesis writing.”

Her plan as of now is to take the fall semester off – this means that she will be graduating at the end of the calendar year 2013, instead of the academic year which would end in the summer. This will give her enough time to nurse her baby, and give her baby enough time to grow up independent.

Eagles isn’t too worried, she knows that at Bryn Mawr, she is not trying to reach her goal of graduation alone. She said that “the administration at Bryn Mawr has been great, the sociology department is really excited and super willing to work with me.” she pauses and takes a deep breath before continuing, “it’s not a question of not having help, it’s just about knowing when to ask for it.”

And asking for it might be the hardest part.

Along with her skills of time management, Eagles also has a lot of support – something that was not a constant in her earlier life.

Eagles’ birth mother left when she was two years old, was in and out of her life a lot and was “abusive and generally horrible all around.” She did not get along with her stepmother either. And says that this was a part of the story behind her eating disorder. “I was trying to find a place I belonged, and I was healing myself through everything that had gone wrong in the past.”

And find a place she did.

Through psychodrama, Eagles met her adoptive mother – a psychodramatist and therapist herself, she adopted Eagles into her family – giving Logan a grandmother (on his mother’s side) and cousins.

This adoptive mother works in the town of Bryn Mawr, and has given Eagles a copy of her office keys – so that Eagles has a place to go and do homework when she needs to get out of her home.

She provides one form of support, Eagles’ husband Patrick, provides another. He is supporting the family financially at the moment – allowing Eagles to be a full time student and mother.

Patrick is trained as an electrician but is the manager of advanced door services. His company fixes automatic doors – this however is not what he wants to do in the long run. Patrick too would like to go back to school, but since he isn’t sure for what yet, Noa decided to go first.

“I’m going first and then I’ll put him through school when I’m making the big bucks” said Eagles. “Oh wait” she continued after a brief pause, “I’m going studying Sociology – so there is no big bucks in that is there?”

She laughed. She isn’t too worried about that right now, as far as she can see, she is living her dreams, and that does not give her too much time to worry about what may or may not come of it.