As the mother of four young children, Lane Community College student Sunny Murray of Eugene always stressed the value of education.
Her children, then ages five through 13, really got the message when mom returned to Lane in 2005 to complete her GED at age 30.
Later, as she waited tables at Sharie's restaurant, her long-time employer in Eugene, she thought about returning to school, earning a degree, and finding different work.
So in 2010, Sunny applied to Lane's dental assisting program and began taking course prerequisites.
She marveled that the fine teaching abilities of math instructor David Van Slyke made it possible for her to succeed in math, a subject she had always dreaded.
Sunny also participated in Women in Transition, a program designed to help single mothers and other nontraditional female students to succeed in academic life by creating a network of support and setting personal goals. The program, Sunny says, had a "powerful" influence on her life.
"I had always been interested in the dental program but never had the self- confidence to enroll until I completed the Women in Transition classes."
She was naturally disappointed when she was not accepted in the program in 2010. But she persisted in her studies, and the dental program accepted her in 2011.
Now 36 and the oldest of 22 students in her program, Sunny is working with real patients in Lane's well-equipped dental lab and will soon intern in a local dental practice.
She says the dental program's six instructors are "amazing," noting that they make sure every student understands the technical nature of the coursework, before moving on.
No doubt, Sunny's children and husband Bill—whom she calls her biggest supporter—will share in her pride when she graduates in June 2012, the first in her family to receive a college degree.
The lesson she hopes her children have learned is: "Never give up."