Bastinne Simon’s path through higher education so far has involved an aircraft carrier, a couple of babies (hers); another baby (another family’s), a pair of lawyers, one in Manhattan; and a husband who believes in her.
Simon, 27, graduated from College of Western Idaho on Saturday with an associate’s degree in history. She’s starting school as a junior at Boise State University’s Honors College in August with plans to begin preparing for law school next year.
Simon’s path has been circuitous, but she doesn’t regret taking a few years in her 20s to figure out what she wanted to do. In fact, she thinks that time, along with critical mentorship she came across by accident, are the reasons for opportunities she hadn’t expected.
“I would have never imagined this, never in a million years,” she said. “If someone was like, ‘You’re going to get really good grades and become a lawyer one day,’ I would have been like, ‘You are crazy.’”
After graduating from Eagle High School in 2008, Simon finished a semester studying at the College of Southern Idaho before deciding that school wasn’t for her. She then joined the U.S. Navy, going through boot camp in the Chicago area before ending up on an aircraft carrier in Norfolk, Va. Deployed in 2010, she traveled to Bahrain, Dubai, Turkey, and Italy, marrying a fellow enlisted sailor on the way.
The aircraft handling work where she was assigned in the Navy wasn’t a passion for Simon, but she stayed where she was to earn federal educational benefits.
When she returned to Idaho with her husband, Benjamin, the two worked for Saint Alphonsus Medical Center for several years as he earned his bachelor’s degree in nursing at Boise State. Then, in 2015, she decided to go to CWI to earn a history degree. She had always liked history, and with a few years of experience behind her, she was able to ignore the well-meaning friends and relatives who told her it was a waste of time and money to major in English or history.
“When I first started, it was all about doing something that will get you paid right away,” she said. “Of course, that was 2007, 2008, in the recession, and everyone was like, ‘Don’t waste your money.’”
But she was ready for the challenge of trying, and she was inspired by the example of her husband, who had taken six years to finish his bachelor’s while working.
“Finally, I was able to hone in on what I really wanted to do in life, after experiencing the world. I had a ‘I can do whatever I want attitude’ and I went with it,” Simon said.
Why law school? This is where the story gets really interesting.
In 2015, as she was starting out at CWI and raising her own two kids, now ages 5 and 2, she served as the surrogate mother for a couple from Manhattan. The father of the baby works as an attorney in New York, and he and the attorney Simon worked with in Boise urged her to attend law school. The father didn’t go to law school himself until he was in his 30s.
“I was talking to them a lot about a career, and I have the GPA for it and the desire and the motivation, and they really inspired me to do it,” she said.
Simon will be the first person in her extended family to graduate from college.
“I never thought that we would have someone in our family be able to finally achieve this, because not a lot of us really enjoy school,” she said.
Her earlier academic experiences in high school and at CSI left her unsure whether being a student was for her. But growing up during her 20s, watching her husband succeed, and getting strong encouragement from the lawyers she met during the surrogacy changed her outlook. She hopes to study surrogacy law.
“My whole life, I thought I would go to college, I’d give it a try,” she said. “When I first tried it out, I thought I would never get back into it, and then finally I did and despite so many people saying I am wasting my time, my husband was always like, do it.
“Everyone in my family is still trying to understand and saying, ‘Wow, I think she’s serious.’ They are super excited and happy.”