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Single mom juggles school, parenting

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Joanne Avery often lets her son Jake, who has Down syndrome, take his favorite toy, Bullseye, in the car to keep him from distracting her while driving.

Amanda Nieto
Associate News Editor

Photography by Candice Salazar

Joanne Avery is a full-time mom and student at the University of La Verne who dedicates her life to her children and education.

A mother of three, Avery is a CAPA student working toward a degree in liberal studies in education where she plans to work with special education students.

“I was fueled by my three sons to set an example. I wanted them to choose a job that they wanted and the only way to do that was through example,” Avery said.

Avery’s 7-year-old son, Jake, was born with Down syndrome and a heart murmur. From birth he was constantly in the care of medical teams with 15 different doctors and eight to nine appointments every week.

“Jake made it easier to accept everything that was happening,” Avery said.

Once life began to stabilize for Avery, she decided it was time to pursue higher education.

“When I was thinking about going back to school, I knew I could either jump in with both feet or test the water,” Avery said. “After testing the water, I jumped in with both feet and found special education.”

Avery is going on three years as a student, and has earned a liberal arts degree at Rio Hondo Community College in Whittier.

“During my first class in child development, I had to prove to myself and be an example which only added to the pressure,” Avery said.

Being her first semester at ULV, Avery said that she never leaves home without a textbook or notes and practically lives in the library.

Candice Salazar, a photography major and CAPA student, said that Avery is the ideal student and she wanted to show through pictures everything that Avery takes on in her life.

“Through Avery, I wanted to inform students that even though you are older you can continue your education,” Salazar said. “It’s harder with kids, but you can do whatever you want.”

“Returning to school after 20 years is challenging and busy. I have to relearn how to study, and I forgot how much time it takes,” Avery said.

However, Avery has proven to herself and her kids that hard work and dedication is rewarded in the end.

Avery has received multiple scholarships on a merit basis, has been on the honor roll for three consecutive semesters and has earned a spot on the Dean’s List.

Avery attributes her success to focus and her incredibly strong support system.

“I have a great support system. Without my mom and boyfriend, I couldn’t do it.”

Also a member of the Alpha Gamma Sigma Honors Society, Avery is able to rely on their support and seek advice whenever it is needed.

“My main responsibility is school and the people in my life allow me to do that.”

Amanda Nieto can be reached at

Avery calculates her expenses for the year as she fills out her financial aid forms. As a single mother, her budget is tight and includes not only school supplies, but also necessities for her and her son, Jake.

“I hate gas prices, because it cuts into my budget, and it makes it more difficult to live comfortably,” says Joanne Avery.

Avery keeps a fully stocked backpack with snacks for breaks between classes. She often buys a soft drink and candy bars for those long hours of study time in the library.

Avery takes a nap between classes to alleviate a severe headache and lack of sleep from studying late into the night.

“Waking up Jake is a constant battle,” Avery says. Jake has to wake up at 7 a.m. every day and does not like to get dressed. This interferes with Avery’s ability to get ready for school.

Homework for Child Development classes consumes most of the day. Avery’s favorite study location is the Wilson Library because it takes her away from all distractions, including home.

While participating in a discussion for her child psychology class, Avery asks a question about teens and warning signs of premarital sex.


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