ex-homeless single mom graduates: Plymouth State College FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Mon, 18 May 1998 10:13:01 -0700 (PDT)

FWD  Associated Press, 05/18/98


PLYMOUTH, N.H. (AP) - When Carolyn Sullivan said reaching graduation at
Plymouth State College had been a long, arduous journey, it was not the
usual commencement platitude.

As a single mother of five, grandmother of one and president of the class
of 1998, her words had special meaning.

``I was on welfare,'' Sullivan said after the ceremony, surrounded by two
of her children and her granddaughter. ``I knew the only way to support my
family was to get an education.''

Now the former cocktail waitress, who was homeless for her freshman year,
plans to enroll in graduate school at the University of New Hampshire in
the fall, and eventually to earn her Ph.D. in history.

``I'm really going to miss this,'' she said, nearly crying.

Sullivan moved to New Hampshire from Massachusetts, where she had worked as
a cocktail waitress to support her three oldest children. But she wanted to
go to college.

She finally enrolled in a community college, but had to drop out
mid-semester because she couldn't find sufficient day care.

Ten years ago she moved to Plymouth, and had two more children before the
relationship ended.

She survived by taking odd jobs, and a welfare check provided less than
$500 a month to pay for rent, food and clothing.

Despite her poverty, she decided to apply to Plymouth State.

Teachers welcomed her two youngest children into the classroom.

She served on the student senate for three years, became junior class
president and then won the election for senior class president by an
overwhelming majority.

She even had her own radio show: ``music from the Celtic realm.''

But at the same time, she lived with three of her children in a homeless
shelter during her first two semesters.

Sullivan credited her children for allowing her to finish, especially
Jillian, now 19.

``She really filled in, making sure the kids were asleep on time, that the
laundry got done,'' she said.

Amanda, 21, Sullivan's second daughter and a college student herself, said
her mother always stressed the need for education.

``I remember going to preschool knowing that I'm going to college,'' she
said. ``She always drove that into us.''


HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK  <http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>  Home Page
ARCHIVES  <http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/archives.html>  read posts to HPN
TO JOIN  <http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/join.html> or email Tom <wgcp@earthlink.net>