Her Higher Ed Dreams a Lesson in Perseverance
Mar 12, 2021
Sutter Health
Latina woman in graduation cap and gown poses with her family

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we honor those who have and continue to blaze paths for women everywhere. Tina Rae Daddow-Gourley, a customer service agent at Sutter Health’s Shared Services Center, tells her personal journey about moving beyond the expectations of others to pursue her dreams of higher education.

I always had goals that were important to me. I wanted to attend college, get married and have children.

My parents, however, didn’t have an expectation that a girl should attend college. When I told my parents about my college goals, they told me that they didn’t have any money set aside for me. My parents weren’t aware of grants or student loans, so when I was accepted to Snow College, I had to decline.

They told me, “You should just get married.” So I did. I had five children by the time I was 25 years old. While I was proud of the family I created, I was also sad because I still hadn’t gone to college.

My husband Don worked construction, which was “feast or famine,” but usually famine. I wanted to be able to do something to help. Due to my lack of education, all I could find were minimum wage jobs.

Eventually, my husband landed a job with a school district as a custodian. I told my husband that I wanted to go to college. He told me, “then you should go! I will watch the children during the day and work at night.” My husband struggles with dyslexia and although he attempted college, he dropped out. Many other men told him that if I attend college, I would leave him when I graduated. He trusted that we could work together to achieve my goal. My husband worked afternoons, and I went to school during the day. I received Federal Pell Grants, Federal Perkins Loans and displaced homemaker grants. I also found out that I was hearing impaired in college, so I received hearing aids and disability grants that helped pay for day care when my husband was unable to watch our kids.

Latina woman in graduation cap and gown holding her diploma

Tina Rae Daddow-Gourley when she earned her bachelor’s degree.

I graduated from the University of Utah in 1994. My mother came to my graduation. She was so proud of me! My father had passed away two years before I finished. My father did not finish school. He only reached 8th grade before dropping out. However, he went back and earned his GED. His perseverance and dedication to go back and complete his GED made me understand how important education was in life. I am the only child in our family to graduate from high school and college.

I later went back to college to get a Special Education Endorsement. I learned how to teach at a school that supported the blind and deaf. I learned braille so I could teach it to my students. In January 2001, I graduated with a master’s degree in educational counseling. I went on to teach special education for grades K-9 for 12 years.

Of my six children, four are girls. They all graduated from college with bachelor’s degrees, and one also has a master’s degree. One of my sons graduated with a bachelor’s degree, and the other works full time as a group home manger for those with disabilities. He used to help me with my special education students, and they loved him. My husband and I have been married 43 years.

In the end, I accomplished all my goals—just not in the order I originally desired.

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