OREM, Utah — Friday is a special day for 47-year-old Sherie’ Araujo. The mother of four will be front and center, literally, at commencement ceremonies for Utah Valley University’s College of Science. As class valedictorian, she will no doubt, in an early Friday morning speech to her classmates, reflect on her journey from her early life in Missoula Valley, Montana, through marriage, divorce, kids and remarriage, to be the first in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree.
“I honestly am humbled and honored,” says Araujo. “I’ve worked really hard carrying 16 to 20 credits each semester. It’s been quite a sacrifice. My grandpa dropped out of school in 8th grade and had to go to work to support his family. My parents both went to one year of college, and then they started their own business and were very successful, but I’m the first one to get a college degree, and I’m doing it at 47.”
Araujo says her 21-year-old is following in her footsteps and is headed to UVU this fall. Other children and husband will be rousted out of bed earlier than usual on Friday morning, as Mom prepares to speak before fellow students and guests at 8:00 a.m. in the PE Building, Rebecca Lockhart Arena on the campus of UVU. Among those in the audience cheering her on will be her parents, coming down from Montana, an aunt and uncle flying in from Savannah, Georgia, and other family members making the trip.
She says support has been huge, from her parents, who always instilled a good work ethic, to her husband, who suggested she go back to school, to classmates, many of them much younger, whom she thought initially might not accept her.
“I was scared to death to go back but thought what do I have to lose? I was a little worried about being in my 40’s going back to college, and if all the 18 and 20-year-olds would accept me, but they accepted me like I was one of them and have become a second family to me,” crows Araujo.
As for her future, she says she is lucky that, unlike most students, she does not have to graduate, then run out and find the first job that comes around. Her husband works full time, and that will help allow her to stick around to get her Associates of Life Science in cabinetry and artistic woodworking. She’ll pursue nature and travel writing, along with photography to go with her outdoor recreation management degree.
She encourages others, empty nesters with some extra time, working, single moms, to start with that $35 application fee, and then see where it leads. Araujo says if you believe in yourself, you can do anything you set out to do.
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