Keeping Her Eye on the Prize

Posted: May 16, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

For Shelley O’Selmo of Springfield, receiving her bachelor’s degree in administration of justice from George Mason marks the end of a long journey through academia that withstood several detours. The energetic 34-year-old military wife and mother of four children age 2 to 10 says, “If you want to do something badly enough, don’t let anything hold you back.”

Entering college in her California hometown as a divorced mother of three small children was just the beginning of a series of challenges and interruptions O’Selmo has overcome to reach her goal. A new marriage to a U.S. Marine Corps officer brought about a move to Virginia and the birth of two additional children. Her husband’s duties often take him away from home, leaving O’Selmo alone to handle family responsibilities. The cross-country move also brought the realization that many of the academic credits she’d earned in California wouldn’t apply to her new degree program in Virginia, which meant additional classes, time and expense. And a tragic illness took the life of her oldest child, coincidentally at the same time she was taking a course on death and dying.

“My motivation was to build a better life for my children and to inspire them to do the same for themselves,” says O’Selmo, who adds that she sees a master’s degree in her future. With an internship at the Federal Bureau of Prisons already on her resume, O’Selmo plans to pursue a federal government career. For now, the family is packing for a move to Japan.

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