Jennifer Landow has no problem telling anybody about it. In fact, she is filled with pride when she does.
She’s 46 years old, a non-traditional college student. Originally from Akron, New York, she is a mother of two children, a 12-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter. She’s a military veteran, she lived in Germany for six years and worked at Home Depot for 15.
She’s a coach, a teacher, a role model, she hopes, for her children and others she interacts with.
Soon, that list will grow. Soon, Landow will accomplish something she admitted that she never thought would happen. She will graduate from St. Bonaventure University with a bachelor’s degree in physical education.
If there’s anything Landow has lived by, it’s that it is never too late to reach for your dreams, find a passion and put a plan into action. That is what she has done.
“You can always go back and fulfill your dreams,” she said. “I finally found a career I am passionate about — one that I really, truly love being a part of. Being in the physical education setting, being able to develop children, not only physically, but emotionally and cognitively. It’s a very rewarding experience, and it adds to how proud I am to get my bachelor’s degree.”
Landow returned to the United States in 2002 and worked at the Olean Home Depot store for a number of years. It was sometime in between then when she discovered that she had a love for youth coaching and working with children.
Landow has coached flag football, youth tackle football, YMCA basketball and other sports. She currently is the head coach of the Franklinville community swim team. She also volunteers with the Franklinville High School’s varsity swim team, which is combined with Olean and Portville schools.
“I have always enjoyed and loved sports my entire life, I played softball for 14 years between school and the military. When I was coaching, I found my passion working with children and developing the youth. That is what led me into deciding I wanted to go back to school to be a physical education teacher.”
Landow, who attempted to complete some schooling while she was in the U.S. Army, went back to school full time at Jamestown Community College in 2017, where she completed two years before transferring to Bona’s.
“St. Bonaventure's financial assistance through scholarships and grants made my years at Bona’s possible. Without out them, I don't think I would have been able to finish my bachelor's degree," she said.
In that same span, Landow stopped working retail and started gaining experience in the local school system as a substitute teacher in 2018.
“I know many teachers from Franklinville Central School District who are Bonaventure alumni,” she said. “They had nothing but excellent things to say about Bonaventure’s education program. The school itself was very convenient for my situation. I needed a school that was close, with an excellent teaching program. It was win-win for me.”
Nothing about Landow’s experience at St. Bonaventure has been typical. Not many college students have the amount of responsibility she has.
“The whole college scene was not remotely in my sights,” she said. “Once I got out of school, I would go coach varsity swim. I would leave varsity swim and go coach community swim. I would get home and make sure my children had their school work done, and get them ready for bed. Then, I would sit down and do my school work, which would take me to midnight or later.”
But that’s not to say Landow did not find her niche at Bona’s. She connected with St. Bonaventure's Veterans Services, interacting with other veterans and non-traditional college students. In spring of 2019, she participated in the annual "Veterans to Assisi" trip, which allows vets to travel to Assisi, Italy, the birthplace of St. Francis, and experience moments of peace, acceptance, and self-discovery.
"St. Francis was a soldier before he gave his life to God," she said. "It was an enlightening experience, being able to tie the military aspect with St. Francis, St. Bonaventure University and my own Christianity."
Landow also joined the Physical Activities Club (PAC) and helped out with Women in Sports Day.
“With PAC, several of us also had the opportunity to go to the physical education conference at Turning Stone Convention Center in fall 2019,” she said. “It was a great opportunity to meet other teacher candidates, professionals, and vendors, and to get instruction and seminars that were geared toward many different areas and topics within the physical education program.”
She also made an impact on others, even if she does not know it. Landow’s story and relentless work ethic set an example for traditional college students.
To Dr. Paul Brawdy, associate professor of physical education and director of physical education and sports studies, having the opportunity to teach Landow and watch her grow as a student and person is what makes being an educator so special.
“To be in class with somebody who has this laser-like focus on what she wants out of this experience, and is willing to do whatever is necessary to get it, it’s a faculty member’s dream,” Brawdy said. “To inspire other students to find things inside themselves that they didn’t know existed, it just raises the whole level of the group.”
So, Landow will graduate in a few days’ time. She hopes to find a full-time teaching job in the area in a physical education department. In the meantime, she will continue her role as a substitute teacher, gaining more experience and developing further as an educator.
She believes she will find the position she has longed to be in. It will take some time, she said.
But Landow has found her way before. She’s confident she will do it again.
For now, on the cusp of graduation, she’s proud of who she has become and who she will continue to be.
“I feel that what I have accomplished later in life is being a good role model for my children and the youth I coach, showing them that it’s never too late,” she said. “I can say that probably 15 or 20 years ago, I would have never imagined myself finishing my degree. It was never even in my thoughts until I started coaching. I feel that being a good role model for our youth is very important.”
Brawdy envisions many things for Landow. Most importantly, though, her character will take her the furthest.
“She is going to be a really valuable part of any community she finds herself in,” Brawdy said.
By Mike Hogan, '21