EUGENE, OR - Shyloh West enrolled at Lane Community College four years ago, unsure what to do with her life. She was raising three children with her longtime partner and had worked in dry cleaning and child care, but everyone said she could do more.
"I had many people in my life tell me I was too smart to be selling myself short, that I needed to go back to school and do something better with my life. I had no idea what I wanted to do, except get my education up to par."
She had dropped out of South Eugene High before completing her high school education through its Opportunity Center. Now, at age 37, she has two associate degrees, in accounting and administrative assisting, and an impressive academic record including all As this term and a 3.46 GPA overall.
"LCC completely turned my life around," she says. "It's given me the strength and the will to succeed, and to know I can succeed."
She started with the Women in Transitions program. "That made every bit of difference. It showed me that I had a support system, and that I could be a support system."
She tells other students, "Don't be afraid. Keep going no matter how hard it seems. Don't give up. In the end it's unbelievable how rewarding it is."
Use resources such as the women's program, tutoring, and the multicultural center, and apply for work-study to get job experience. She held a work-study post in Lane's president's office for the past year.
She also volunteered to raise funds and awareness for the Native American longhouse, which opened last fall. She is Potawatomi and her partner is the son of Frank Merrill, former director of Lane's Native American program and a key advocate for the longhouse.
She's on her way forward now, degrees in hand, and a trace of tears in her eyes. She plans to walk in Lane's commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 11, at the Lane County Fairgrounds.
"Just believe in yourself," she says.
Published by Lane Community College Marketing and Public Relations June 2011.