Commencement Ceremony welcomed more than 12,000 guests in the Toyota Center

HOUSTON, September 24, 2009 — As Houston residents compete for the same limited number of jobs, almost 2,000 professionals made themselves more marketable and valuable by earning advanced degrees from University of Phoenix earlier this month. Their degrees could give them the competitive edge they need to help secure a new job.

Earlier this month, University of Phoenix-Houston campus celebrated the achievements of these professionals for earning their associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees. Many of these students earned their degrees by attending classes online or in a traditional classroom at one of the University's six campus and learning center locations in the Greater Houston area.

The most popular degree programs among this graduating class were the Bachelor of Science in Business/Management (BSB/M) and the Master of Business Administration (MBA). More than 12,000 guests and employees are expected to attend the celebration. Below are a couple of student stories from this year's graduating class.

STAY-AT-HOME MOTHER BECOMES THE FIRST PERSON IN OVER FOUR GENERATIONS TO EARN A COLLEGE DEGREE

When Martha Finney's career path as an office manager became stagnant, she knew she wanted to do more with her life. But when her9-year-old son, Ethan, was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), she stopped her career to focus on his needs.

As a stay-at-home mother, the 39-year-old started to think about going back to school, which had been a personal goal of hers for more than 20 years. Without extra financial resources, however, she was hesitant. Her husband encouraged her to reach her longtime goal, so she enrolled in the online associate's degree program at University of Phoenix.

Martha received her associate's degree in business. She was the first person in over four generations of her Mexican-American family(which is more than 30 people, including her parents, five sisters, grandparents and college-age nieces and nephews) to have a college education. Martha hopes her achievement will help break the mold forher family and encourage her son and four stepchildren to continue their education to achieve their life's ambition.

BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR STRIVES TO INSPIRE OTHERS TO REACH THEIR DREAMS

It took every ounce of strength Angela Banks had to free herself from a verbally, physically and mentally abusive relationship, but she knew she had to do it for her young daughter. Unfortunately, after moving to Houston for a fresh start, she realized this was just the beginning of her tough journey. The 41-year-old was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Angela was terrified, but refused to leave her little girl behind without a mother to guide her through life's challenges. After receiving proper medical care and becoming a cancer survivor, she knew there was nothing she couldn't do.

To prove that she will always be a survivor of life's toughest obstacles, Angela enrolled in the bachelor's program at University of Phoenix. Though she was faced with unemployment, financial struggles and unhealthy relationships, she did not let this to discourage her from her longtime dream of having a college degree. After earning her bachelor's degree in business management two years ago, she dreamed bigger and continued on her educational journey.

Angela walked across the stage to receive her master's degree in business administration with her daughter cheering her on from the stands. Angela hopes her story will help cancer patients and survivors to dream big and do what it takes to reach those dreams. She also would like to utilize her education background and passion for life to create a foundation that will help children and families cope with parents diagnosed with cancer.

HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL EARNS BACHELOR'S DEGREE WHILE RECOVERING FROM SEVERE INJURIES

Doris Hoke was trying to earn her college degree when she lost herhusband to pancreatitis. The tragic event weighed heavily on the 47-year-old mother of two young children under the age of 4, so she puther educational dreams on hold.

Several years later, she was accidentally injured at work and was unsure if she could continue her career as an operating room nurse. Refusing to let her life come to a dead end, Doris quickly created aback-up plan, just in case she needed to make a career change within the nursing profession, and enrolled in the online bachelor's degree program at University of Phoenix.

Given her physical state, Doris found University of Phoenix to match perfectly with her lifestyle. During her road to recovery, Doris was able to lift herself out of her same day-to-day rut and pursue a higher education within the nursing field. Doris received her bachelor's in nursing degree and is continuing her education in the MBA/MSN degree program.

SINGLE MOTHER OF THREE COMPETES FOR GRADES WITH CHILDREN

Jodie Smith dreamt about getting a college degree for more than 10 years. She tried going back to school a couple of times but, with three young children under the age of 10, the 35-year-old always put her family's needs before her own. Unfortunately, when her marriage was over, the newly single mother found herself wondering what her next step would be.

With a full-time job in the automotive industry and taking care of her family, Jodie had limited free time. But her passion for education and the desire to be a good role model for her children motivated her to enroll in the online bachelor's degree program for University of Phoenix.

The University's online program provided Jodie with the flexibility and convenience she needed to complete her homework during lunch breaks, after the kids were sleeping at night and on weekends in between time spent playing with the children. They supported her and even encouraged her to keep going when she faced challenges. In fact, she competed for good grades with her son Conor (10), who always made sure she was on her "A" game.

Jodie received her bachelor's degree in science and business management. She will also continue her educational journey by earning her master's degree in accountancy. She hopes her achievements will encourage her three children – Conor, Leah (6) and Michaela (2) – to always be lifelong learners.

ABOUT UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX

University of Phoenix is constantly innovating to help students balance education and life in a rapidly changing world. Through flexible schedules, challenging courses and interactive learning, students achieve personal and career aspirations without putting their lives on hold. During the quarter ending May 31, 2009, 420,700 students were enrolled at University of Phoenix, the largest private university in North America. University of Phoenix serves a diverse student population, offering associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree programs from campuses and learning centers across the U.S. as well as online throughout the world.

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Maemalynn Meanor

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