When Sara Worley, C’17, was 18 years old, she went off to college like many of her friends, but her educational journey would wind a very curvy path. After a single semester, Worley determined that college wasn’t a good fit for her — she moved back to Richmond and started working. She returned to school at Reynolds Community College a short time later, but this time life intervened — Worley had a baby. She finished at Reynolds, but completing her associate’s degree took several more years than she originally anticipated.

Worley, 37, works at Goochland County’s customer service center for community development. Her boss had encouraged her to finish her bachelor’s degree, emphasizing how important it would be for her to move forward in the future. Worley understood the importance, but she kept putting off the decision to return to school. When her boss passed away from cancer, the loss gave her the little push she needed to take the next step. Worley started her studies at UR’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies (SPCS) in 2013.

Worley decided to finish her bachelor’s degree at Richmond because she was looking for the “traditional” campus experience that she had not had. More importantly, she loved the family atmosphere of the School. Everyone at SPCS was seemed excited and supportive of her returning to school. That was important because Worley understood the enormous commitment she was making to go back to school while working full time and raising a family.

As fulfilling as graduation is for Worley, returning to school was tough at times. Many of her evenings and weekends were devoted to class time, coursework and studying. As a result, she missed a lot of time with her family.

“I felt like I missed a lot of Saturdays,” Worley says. “Most Saturdays I was at the kitchen table writing papers, doing research.”

The financial hardship of paying for college was also tough at times for Worley. To ease some of the financial pressure of her tuition bill, Worley took advantage of SPCS’s scholarship program, which awards over $100,000 annually to adult students. Her scholarships also worked as motivation because with scholarships came a message of confidence and support from SPCS.

“It's easier knowing I have the school behind me saying “You can do this. Here’s some money. We believe in you!’”, says Worley. “And I don’t have to worry about having to pay for that class.”

The time in class, studying and working on her assignments was worth it. Worley is the first in her immediate family to earn her college degree. Graduation represents the culmination of her commitment to herself, her son and her husband. Her commitment has paid off because she’s one of this year’s top graduates, earning the job of carrying the SPCS Banner in the Commencement ceremony.

What’s next for Worley? She’s not exactly sure, but she enjoys where she works. She’d love to continue to grow with Goochland County. She sees working for local government as a way for her to give back to the community.