Single mother. Working professional. College graduate. Those three things sum up the life Mary Garwood.

A single, working mom, Mary Garwood worked two jobs while pursuing her bachelor’s degree from New Mexico State University. She proved to her children that with hard work and determination, anything is possible as long as you don’t quit.

She is very visible working for the City of Carlsbad as a code enforcement officer and recycling coordinator, and she also heads up Keep Carlsbad Beautiful. Before taking on those jobs, she was the recycling manager for CARC’s Rainbow Recycling. “I took a leap and came to the city,” Garwood said.

Garwood has a 17-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son. She admits between work and raising a family, “I have a very busy schedule.” Last year, Garwood obtained a Bachelor Degree in Criminal Justice from New Mexico State University. She said she obtained her degree because it would allow her to work with children and families. “It’s always been interesting to me,” Garwood said. “I had some family members that had some unfortunate circumstances when I was young and I always thought it would be a good idea to be an advocate for people that don’t have a voice … that’s what kind of started it.”

Garwood’s plan to attain a higher degree started in 2002

Garwood’s plan to attain a higher degree started in 2002, a couple of years after she graduated from high school in 1999. “It took me four years to get my associate’s degree,” she said. “I took a break and finally buckled down and got serious about it and ended up getting my bachelor’s degree last year.”

She admits raising her children and advancing her education has been “a juggling act.” “There are a lot of things I had to sit out on…I had to stay and work while my daughter would have something going on. I wasn’t able to be there for them. If I was lucky I could get away, ninety percent of the time I wasn’t.” she admitted. “You lean on friends and family and luckily my parents are involved as they can be. But, that’s not one-hundred percent either.” She feels that grandparents don’t take the place of a parent. “There’s nothing like having your mom or your dad there,” Garwood said.

There were a couple of semesters where Garwood took a full load of classes. However, there were times she would only take two classes. “I was working 50 to 60 hours a week, trying to pay the bills. I needed to work that much for the overtime,” she said, “which took me away from my family, but the studying on top of it; it’s almost like having another part time job. I’d say no less than eight to ten hours a week and you try to fit it in where you can.”

Thanks to advances in technology, Garwood, like many individuals who choose to go back to school later in life, was able to obtain her bachelor’s degree online. “I didn’t have to actually go over there,” she said of taking classes from NMSU’s main campus in Las Cruces. She did, however, have to travel west to participate in the graduation exercises. “That takes a lot of self-discipline,” she acknowledged. “To make yourself sit down and log in to a computer and stare at a screen for a couple of hours each night. That takes a lot of discipline. A lot of times I didn’t have it; sometimes I would just postpone it and do what I could when I could do it.”

Garwood doesn’t like to start anything and then stop

Clarissa Lopez and her little brother, Raezon Garwood, saw how hard their mother worked to provide for them while attending college courses online to obtain a college degree.

Garwood doesn’t like to start anything and then stop, and while the pressures of working and raising a family may have taken a toll on her at times, she felt it was necessary to carry on. “I don’t want to quit and I definitely don’t want to let my kids down,” she said. “It wouldn’t actually let them down, but it would show them, ‘hey no matter what, you can still finish.’ It’s only work and if I had to take a couple of days off, I could have. It’s just that spirit. You’ve got to keep going.”

Fortunately, her family was very supportive of her, making the trip to Las Cruces last year for her graduation ceremony. “My dad said, ‘I’m really proud of you,’ and that my mom would’ve been proud of me too. She passed away four years ago. I should really say that about her too, finishing that was something my mom would have made me do,” Garwood said. “She got to be there when I graduated with my associate’s and I remember seeing her from the audience. I remember thinking when I got my bachelor’s, ‘I miss my mom.'”

Garwood has some simple advice

Garwood has some simple advice for those who may want to obtain an education beyond high school, even if it comes later in life. Start slow. “Start with one (class),” she advised. “Don’t let age hold you back and just don’t think there’s stuff that you can’t learn. There’s so much new information out there. This world isn’t what we thought it once was. It’s really cool to hear new things and brush up on your knowledge to show that you are open minded.”