They drove to Reno together. They struggled through homework together, and now they will share in one another's triumph.
Four Carson area women balanced jobs, families and school and on May 13, will graduate from the University of Nevada, Reno with degrees in social work.
"It's a hard rock to climb, but it's worth it once you get there," said Sharon Pope, one of the four ready to graduate.
Pope, Melodie Masterson, Lucy Sei and Nancy O'Neill met in class.
"We had a lot in common," Sei said. "The same community, same age and same degree."
They also shared the same dream.
"I'm excited that it's finally going to be over, that I'm going to be able to accomplish that dream," Sei said. "There were times when I didn't know if I was going to be able to reach that goal."
Reaching the goal opens up a new window of opportunities for the women.
"It's very empowering to know that I can go apply for jobs that, up until this point, I never could have qualified for," Masterson said.
Each has her own story that compelled her to return to school.
O'Neill dropped out of college during her senior year to marry and start a family. She has wanted to go back ever since.
"For the last 25 years, I had always intended to go back," she said. "It was always a goal in the back of my mind."
Then the company she worked for left town. "I found myself unemployed," she said.
She worked as a union representative and decided to take an introductory class in social work. That's where she stayed.
Sei also wanted to go back to school for many years. However, she lived in Winnemucca and college was not accessible.
Now that she lives in Carson City, it is possible.
"It's an opportune time for me," Sei said. "I raised my kids and it's the right time for me in my life."
For Masterson, it was the end of her marriage that drove her back to school.
"I found myself a single mom and unable to support my child," she said. "I felt I needed to get a degree in order to support my son in a reasonable fashion."
She chose social work so that she could make a difference.
"I have always wanted to be able to make a difference in people's lives," Masterson said. "Social work will give me that opportunity."
Pope said she worked for years as "somebody's assistant" and decided she wanted to be the one making the decisions.
"I felt I had a lot of valuable experience but I couldn't find a job without a degree," she said. "I finally decided it was worth it to make the commute to Reno."
She said although it was difficult to balance family, work and school, she would recommend that other women in her position do the same thing.
"It's harder when you have a family and you have responsibilities and you're commuting, but you have to do what you have to do," she said. "No matter how hard it seems, just do it."
Masterson and Sei have both been accepted to graduate school at UNR in the fall.
O'Neill plans to work for the Division of Child and Family Services full-time for a year then attend graduate school.
Pope said she and her family will be moving to Las Vegas soon. There, she said, she plans to work for a year or two with the senior citizen population and later attend graduate school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.