Nontraditional student juggles work, family, school and maintains "A" average

When Pam Huffman Adams set the goal to return to college and get a degree, she knew the road ahead would be long and difficult. As a mother of two and a full-time employee at Hale County State Bank for 19 years, Adams anticipated a lot of juggling in store.

But she never expected being able to walk the stage at Wayland Baptist University on May 19 with the distinction of highest-ranking graduate, completing her college career with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

Adams, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Education degree in Business Administration, shared the straight "A" record with five other graduates. But her experience was very different from the other students, all younger, traditional college students who lived on campus and were involved in the usual university activities.

For Adams, though, college classwork was just one more thing taking up space in her life's basket. With her responsibilities including a job as an administrative assistant, taking care of two children and a husband and keeping a home in order, earning the degree had to be wedged in whatever space was left. But it was a sacrifice Pam and her husband Jerry were willing to make.

"I wanted career advancement and knew I wasn't going to get it without college," she said. "I knew I needed the degree and if I ever stopped it would be harder to start back."

With that knowledge, she enrolled at Wayland five years ago, starting with just one class and gradually adding more each semester along the way. She took several courses at Wayland's Lubbock campus as well, since their four-term year meant earning more hours faster. Many of her classes were at night or late in the afternoons, and she said her employers were willing to be flexible with her schedule so she could work in some classes.

The 4.0, she said, was not an original goal but wasn't unheard of for Adams, who was an A student in high school and graduated sixth in her class at Plainview High in 1983.

"I wasn't trying at the first, but after a few years, I decided I wanted the 4.0," she said. "I feel like it wasn't easy to do. You have to really put your mind to it and work hard."

Despite working her classes around work and family, Adams was able to earn her degree in five years. For her perseverance and her excellent academic record, her family is proud.

"She's an excellent role model for our kids. We've always told them we didn't expect them to get all A's but we expected them to do their best," said Jerry, who has worked at Wal-Mart Distribution Center for 14 years.

Jerry said he took on some added responsibilities for the home and children in order to help his wife complete her education, but added, "she made a bigger sacrifice than me."

"Sometimes (her going to school) meant staying up late and studying, or we could go out on the weekend but she'd have to study all the next day to make up for it," he said. "For everything there's a sacrifice."

The Adams' two children - Cody, who will be a junior at Plainview High, and Tiffany, who will be a freshman - are also proud of their mother's accomplishments. And according to Jerry, they're already following in her footsteps by taking advanced classes, being in the honor society and trying to achieve in school.