Plenty of people take time off between high school and college.

Not everyone takes 36 years off like Denise Moy did. But here she is, several decades later and a Saint Mary’s University graduate, working in her field of choice with a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services.

“Saint Mary’s kept telling me that I belonged in this field and would make a great human services worker,” Moy said. “I am so thankful to all of those people for helping me make it through.”

After graduating from Simley High School in 1973, Moy didn’t have the confidence to continue her education. She was an average student, and her counselors and parents didn’t think she would be able to keep up with college academics. So she entered the workforce and served as a secretary for several different companies.

Moving from job to job, Moy was laid off in 2005 when her job was relocated overseas. She tried to find work, but every administrative assistant job opening required at least an associate’s degree. So, even with more than 30 years of experience in the field, she was only able to arrange three interviews in one year.


With her husband’s support and encouragement, Moy returned to school full-time and enrolled at Dakota County Technical College (DCTC). While taking courses at DCTC’s Partners in Higher Learning Center in Apple Valley, Moy became acquainted with Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota through its Apple Valley center and coordinator Cheryl Cox (then in the same building). The two began talking about Moy continuing her education in human services at Saint Mary’s. But Moy’s lack of confidence nearly prevented it.

“I still wasn’t sure of myself,” Moy said. “I told the people at Saint Mary’s that I was not smart enough to continue this education.”

With encouragement from Cox and some financial aid, Moy finally enrolled at Saint Mary’s University. Just as she headed into her final year, Moy found a part-time job as the house manager at a sober house. She balanced work, family and school with the help of her husband Art and the staff at Saint Mary’s. “They gave me a lot of encouragement to keep moving forward,” Moy said of the Saint Mary’s faculty and staff members.

Moy graduated from Saint Mary’s in 2013 with a 3.5 GPA and a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services. Today she continues to work at the sober house — doing what she cares about.

“Had it not been for all these wonderful people in my life pushing me forward to the finish line,” Moy said, “I would not have made it. All of the teachers at Saint Mary’s kept telling me that I belonged in this field and that I would make a great human service worker. I wanted to be a social worker when I graduated from high school,” Moy recalled.

While her path may not have been traditional, Moy has shown that it is possible to complete your education at any age. At 58 years old, Moy found out that she was smart enough to graduate from college — she just needed a little extra support.

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