Monday, April 25, 2011

Student Overcomes Hurdles to Earn Degree

Going back to school is never easy. It takes discipline, motivation and sacrifice. For Kathryn Freeman, it took those qualities, and then some. The single mother of two young children is graduating next month from Tempe’s Rio Salado College with an associate degree in dental hygiene.

For the past year and a half, Freeman has commuted between her home in Tucson and an apartment in Phoenix, to realize her educational goals.
“Without my parents’ support, I would not have been able to finish,” Freeman said.

Four days a week, Freeman attends classes in Rio Salado’s dental hygiene program, and takes care of her daughter. Every weekend, she heads back to Tucson to reunite with her son and parents.

“My son Caden is in 3rd grade and there was no way I could work out his school schedule with mine,” Freeman said. “I am very blessed that my mother is able to care for him during the week. Leaving him every Sunday breaks my heart, but I know what I’m doing is right and that it will change our lives for the better.”

Another challenge Freeman faced when returning to school was timing. She initially applied to a dental hygiene school in Tucson, but learned there was a 4-year waiting list to enter the program.

“I chose Rio Salado’s dental hygiene program because I was accepted four months after I applied,” Freeman said. “It is a fast track program that takes only 15 months to complete. I also liked that Rio Salado has a well-respected reputation. They encourage excellence, yet they are very supportive.”

Freeman has also faced financial hurdles while pursuing her dreams of becoming a dental hygienist. Facing eviction in Ohio, she moved to Tucson with all her worldly possessions in one suitcase, to attend a community college while also working full-time as a dental assistant.

“Working allowed me to save money and buy a good car that has allowed me to commute to Tempe,” Freeman said. “It also gave me good dental experience that I believe gave me a leg up in being accepted into Rio’s hygiene program.”

Freeman offers encouragement to other single moms by reminding them that “education holds the key to a better future for yourself and your children. Even if you can’t afford to go to school full-time, it’s never too late to start picking away at a degree part-time,” she said.

At next month’s graduation, Freeman will be living proof to her children that you can accomplish your goals when you set your mind to it.

“I want my children to always strive to do their best, and without doing that myself how could I expect it from them?” Freeman said. “Graduation is a gateway towards a life I’ve been dreaming about.”

Freeman’s future plans include attending Northern Arizona University this fall to earn a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene, and home ownership “so my kids can finally get the dog they have been wanting!”

Rio Salado’s commencement ceremony takes place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4, 2011, at the Orpheum Theatre, 203 W. Adams St., Phoenix. For more information visit