As far back as elementary school, Shirley Chapman was told the opposite any young girl needed to hear to find her way in life.

“You’re not smart enough for college.”

Such negativity came her way from misguided teachers and outdated books. That’s just the way things were in the 1950s, Chapman said.

But somehow, even then, she knew she was meant to do something greater.

“God put on my heart and in my purpose in life to help people,” she said.

After graduating from high school in 1968, she made multiple runs at college, only to be pulled away by life’s curveballs, family obligations and other responsibilities.

In 2009, with her children grown and having encouraged countless others to pursue their dreams of a college education, Chapman realized she needed to take her own advice. She resolved to return to school and to give it everything she had.

“In my mind, I wanted to dispel all of the negative messages pumped into my head over the years growing up,” she said.

She made good on her word. Chapman graduated in December 2015 summa cum laude from Regis with a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Psychology and the University’s prestigious Educational Perseverance Award, which recognizes a graduate who has overcome a major obstacle in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. Among other achievements, she also was inducted into Alpha Sigma Nu, the honor society of Jesuit colleges and universities that recognizes students who distinguish themselves in scholarship, loyalty to the ideals of Jesuit education and service to others.

Regis helped make the difference in helping her achieve her dream, she said.

Chapman, who has served on a variety of advocacy boards including the Colorado Child Welfare Action Committee, connected with Regis’ mission of serving those on the margins of society. She also found caring professors and academic advisors who have her best interests at heart, opportunities to be engaged with student organizations like Alpha Sigma Lambda (an honor society for post-traditional students), and other support to ensure she achieved her goal this time around.

Chapman now hopes to pursue a master’s degree from Regis and become a therapist helping married couples and families overcome hurdles life places at their feet.

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