When the thought enters Opal Anderson’s psyche, her hands immediately clasp her face, a single tear streams down, peaks at the top of her cheekbone and shimmers. 

It sits there waiting, almost lost in time. Then, in a single motion, the tear vanishes with a wipe of her right hand and a bright smile emerges. 

This, right here and right now, is the culmination of 14 years. 

Anderson graduated from Regis University with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts

“I was very, very sad for a long time,” Anderson said. “I really want to walk across that stage. I want to show my daughter. I want to break the cycle. Any cycle — all those things that come in between success.”

Anderson’s life has been anything but ordinary, and walking across that stage is a reaffirmation for everything she has been through. 

Reasons for Anderson to quit or give up, pervaded her life. 

She got pregnant when she was 17, moved out of her parents’ house to women’s housing when she was 18. She endured four surgeries for tumors and ovarian cysts. She got addicted to opiate pills, overdosed at 25 and spent two weeks in a coma. 

“That,” she said, “was one of the roughest times.”

Through it all, there were always constants. Despite being a single mom battling health issues and addiction, Anderson found that education was always a beacon. There was also a higher power guiding her through tough times and education. 

She knew how important her education was, and started at a local community college when she was 19. She took classes when she could, eventually enrolling at a large state university in 2008, but with work and her daughter, it was too much. 

Finally, in 2012 she came to Regis. It fit her values and beliefs and she found the faculty engaging and compassionate. Regis was able to meet her where she was at in her life.

But it wasn’t easy. She faced more challenges, including a miscarriage and the loss of her father. But through it all, she’s had the support of her mother, Denise Anderson.

“One thing about Opal, she always accepted responsibility,” she said. “She does it with gusto and enthusiasm. She never quit and she never came back home either. She’ll make it because she has the right stuff. I’m very proud of her. She’s my inspiration.”

Now 33, Opal Anderson has graduated. It’s taken 14 years and many tears.

But this time, it’s tears of joy.  

“This isn’t the end for me,” she said, as she looks forward to her new beginning. “This is going to propel me.” 

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