Credit: Nick Romanenko
Dustin Pidgeon had planned to go to college. But his plans took an unexpected turn – when he was 18, he became a father, separated from the child’s mother and began life as a single parent.
He found himself living with his parents in North Brunswick, working full time and taking courses at night, raising his son and wondering what would become of his hopes for a college education.
Pidgeon graduated in May with a bachelor of arts in communication from Rutgers College, and he couldn’t be more proud of himself and his now 4-year-old son, Tyler.
There were tough times along the way. “It was particularly bad that first year,” he recalled. His first semester at Rutgers began with the events of Sept. 11. He was recovering from a car accident, hobbling on crutches and had to be driven to school every day. In March, Tyler was born. For awhile, he and Tyler’s mother, his high school girlfriend, tried to make things work. But, he said, “We were too young; the relationship wasn’t going to work out.” His grade point average that first year was 1.5.
Needing money, Pidgeon found a full-time job in sales with an Internet-based company that serves automotive dealerships. “I’d always wanted a career in advertising or marketing, but I wondered when I’d ever find time to finish my degree,” Pidgeon said.
Pidgeon switched from a pre-business major to coursework at the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies and went from attending school during the day to taking evening classes part-time. On a typical day, he woke early, fed and clothed his son and rushed off to work. Depending on the semester, he had classes three or four nights per week. By this time, Tyler’s mother had moved out of state. Pidgeon’s mother helped her son with Tyler’s care.
Today, Pidgeon carries a 4.0 in his major, and 3.2 overall. He still lives at home with his family – he has two brothers, ages 12 and 10, who serve as surrogate siblings for Tyler – but is interviewing in his field for a job he hopes will allow him to afford his own place. He could see himself at an advertising agency or marketing firm, since he enjoys the variety of working with different clients. “I’m used to juggling a lot of different balls,” he said.
There were dark days when he thought of giving up but kept going because of his son. “Tyler has been my inspiration. I push myself harder because of him,” he said.