Once Myra Hanson made the decision to get a degree from UNC, she didn't let anything stop her.
That decision came a few years ago. She was 50 and her career as a retail store manager had been derailed by a series of layoffs during the recession. She and her husband had separated, and she didn't have a place to live. Although a recent MRI revealed that her MS had stopped progressing, she still suffered from its effects.
Through a friend, she found a job tutoring at a charter school in Colorado Springs and started rebuilding her life. She loved working with the students, and the teachers encouraged her to get a degree and pursue her newfound passion.
She moved to Greeley in summer 2010 and started classes fall semester. A bicycling accident just before midterm exams left her with multiple fractures of bones in the arm and wrist of her dominant right hand. She wore a series of traction casts for the next 10 weeks, but refused to drop any classes.
"My instructors were great and let me take my exams orally," Hanson said. "And my classmates were so helpful. Some of the guys would run interference through crowded halls so nobody bumped my arm."
Her bumpy road started to smooth out after her recovery. She reconciled with her husband, who joined her in Greeley, did well in her coursework, and although she had to take it easy some days and pace herself because of the lingering effects of her MS, she became active on campus, serving as president of Mortar Board, secretary/treasurer of the Non-Traditional Student Association and tutoring international students.
She came away from Teacher Employment Days with a job teaching at an elementary school in a small town in eastern Colorado and graduated with a 4.0 GPA.
"I guess I created a whole new life for myself," Hanson said. "Anybody can if you keep what you're passionate about in your heart and don't ever let it go. When all else crumbles, you'll still have that and can pick yourself up and go do whatever it is that you're passionate about."