Divorced Mother’s Determination, Sacrifice Led to Better Life

The easiest thing is to quit. Let me tell you this story.

Her name is Joyselyn Knight. She is 29 years old, divorced and the mother of three children, all girls: Nadia, 8, Chanelle, 4, and Aliana, 2.

She is raising them by herself. Until last spring, she was doing it on a fast-food restaurant salary.

It was going fairly satisfactorily until the day the Great Recession hit. Her 40-hours-a-week job turned into 20 hours a week. She could barely pay the rent and feed the girls.

There had to be a better way.

She had always wanted to do something in the medical field, maybe be a nurse. If now wasn’t the time, when would it come?

She enrolled at Everest College. She would study to become a medical assistant.

Work at the fast-food job became even more sporadic. The only shift available was from late afternoon to 2 a.m. She got a friend to watch the girls.

And then, in February, the rent came due and Joyselyn Knight couldn’t pay it. She and the girls suddenly were homeless.

She found a motel that would take them.

They lived there for a month. Unable to pay for gas, she parked and pretty much forgot about her old clunker of a car. She and the girls rode the bus.

She thought of quitting school, maybe finding another job — any job — and putting her life back together.

"But I just couldn’t quit," Knight said. "I didn’t feel I had a choice."

So every day she rose before dawn, and dressed herself and the girls to make the first bus to the babysitter at 5:30 a.m.

In the evening, she bundled up the girls and took them to the Denver Public Library downtown

They read and pranced around the children’s reading area while she used a library computer to finish school assignments.

And then, with a member of her church arriving to watch the girls, it was off to the late-night shift at the restaurant.

In April, she began the last leg of her education — a full-time, nonpaid internship at Aurora Denver Cardiology Associates. It was a requirement to graduate.

Two weeks into it, her boss at the restaurant called her into his office. She would have to choose between her job and school.

She chose school.

"I cannot tell you how scary that was, me knowing I had three girls and no check coming in," she said.

The next day, her supervising physician called her into his office. She fit in well, he told her.

Was this a place she felt she could join the staff full time?

Joyselyn Knight nearly cried.

"I had my last $30 in my pocket," she said. "I told him ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’ "

She graduated from Everest College in May. Last month, the college named her one of two 2010 Dream Award winners, acknowledging the hardships she had to overcome. She received $2,500 to continue her education.

Knight said she will begin nursing school in January.

Her life today, she said, is wonderful.

"What kept me going was my kids," she said, "how when they got older, they would always know I fought for myself and for them."


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