NACOGDOCHES, Texas-Finals. Group projects. Fifteen-page papers. For the average college student, these are the usual grueling tasks that cause immense stress at the semester's end. But imagine doing it all while raising six children, working a full-time job and maintaining a flawless 4.0 grade-point average.
After many years of ups and downs, late nights and hectic schedules, 31-year-old Rhae Lamb of Colorado City, Texas, will graduate from Stephen F. Austin State University this weekend with a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Science and fulfill her dream of teaching.
Lamb began her collegiate journey more than 13 years ago, gaining some college credit while still in high school. Circumstances prevented her from pursuing college right away, but four years later, she went back to school and received her associate's degree from South Plains College. She was eight months pregnant with her fourth child when she walked across the stage to receive her diploma.
A few months after graduation, the company where she and her husband worked filed bankruptcy, and the couple lost everything. "We moved closer to his parents and struggled to put the pieces back together," Lamb said.
But this obstacle did not keep her down for long. Once things started to look up for the couple, Lamb went on to receive her Associate of Arts degree from Western Texas College before ultimately working toward her bachelor's degree at SFA.
Lamb said that going back to school was not a difficult decision, but one she knew she had to make for herself and her family.
"There just comes a time in your life when you know you can never be satisfied with where you are unless you move ahead," she said. "I wanted to know that I could do this, and do it well, and be rewarded with a career that I would love."
Lamb was inspired by her SFA professors who were also driven toward their own educational advancement, while balancing family life and a career. "They were so easy to relate to and, no matter what, we could always go to them with a question," she said.
Lamb is certified to teach Pre-K through fourth grades, and though she has not yet found a teaching position, she remains hopeful about finding the perfect place to share her passion.
"Have you ever watched a child who was learning something new? I mean really watched them?" she said. "There is a very precise and exact moment when you can see the "aha moment" work its way across their face. Their little faces light up as they realize what they have just done. Now, can you imagine…YOU did that? How awesome! It is an effect I hope to see many, many more times in my career."
Day in and day out, Lamb has had to find time to devote to her education somewhere between her children's taekwondo and T-ball practices and late-night suppers with the family. Her studying began every night around 10 p.m. and often lasted until 3 a.m., depending on the project she was working on. She then awakened each day around 5 a.m. to do it all over again.
"Usually 'dead week' is the first week of the semester that I get to bed before midnight-a small treat in itself," Lamb said.
She says all the hard work is for her family.
"Their pride is contagious and the perfect source to keep me driven," she said.
"Most of all, I owe my success to my husband and my children. They sacrificed many activities so that mom could get back to her studies. I am glad that they were here to share in the journey and the success that follows," Lamb said.
"I feel that, in a way, this is their triumph, too."
SFA commencement exercises will be held at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, May 16, at William R. Johnson Coliseum.