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Degree worth effort
Disabled laborer gets new lease on learningBy Brad Newman
Since she was 18, Tina Monfort worked in manual-labor jobs.
But when the 41-year-old of Dumas developed back problems four years ago, she decided it was time to try something different.
"There was no way I could go back to what I was doing," Monfort said. "That's when I started thinking about school."
Monfort, who has since earned an associate's degree in education, will walk with fellow graduates at tonight's Amarillo College graduation ceremony.
Monfort started taking classes at AC's Moore County Campus in 2005. It was her first time back in the classroom in two decades.
She graduated from Dumas High School in 1984 but never pursued a college degree.
"I wanted to (go to college) as a kid, but I didn't," she said.
"So, the thought of going back to school scared me to death. I didn't think I'd be able to do it. I doubted myself."
But Monfort didn't need to be concerned. She's been on the dean's list, and she will graduate with honors.
"I've aced it," Monfort said.
Monfort finished her course work in December, ending a two-year pursuit that involved Moore County Campus classes, Web courses and some instruction in Amarillo.
"We were happy she was going to pursue something that she wanted to do," said Monfort's daughter, Victoria Uresti, 16. "Just to see her doing something she loves means everything to us."
In January, Monfort began teaching full time in the Life Skills department at Dumas Junior High School.
"I love my job," she said. "I've always been drawn to education, and I've substituted a lot, so now I've just fallen in love with it."
Monfort, a mother of four, including two stepchildren, and a grandmother of three, credits her success to the support from her family and God.
"I finally feel like I truly accomplished something," she said. "It was a lot of hard work, but I know it's worth it."
Uresti, a junior at Cornerstone Christian Academy in Dumas, said her mother's educational journey has motivated her.
"She has really influenced me to go on to college, finish my education and find a career," she said. "I've learned that as long as you're determined, you can do it."
Monfort said she plans to begin classes at West Texas A&M University in January.
She wants to complete a bachelor's degree in special education.
"I want to be an example to my children, to show them education is important," Monfort said. "I hope they'll know it's possible no matter what."
Amarillo College's graduation ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. today at the Amarillo Civic Center's Cal Farley Coliseum, 400 S. Buchanan St.
Graduates will include about 1,145 students who have completed graduation requirements.
A reception will follow in the Civic Center's North Concourse.
Editor's Note: The Amarillo Globe-News is profiling a student a day from May 9-29 as part of its 2008 graduation coverage. Students were nominated by Globe-News readers.
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