After years of studying, paper-writing and test-taking, hundreds of students received their diplomas at University of Wisconin-La Crosse's Winter Commencement Sunday morning at the La Crosse Center.
Single mom Susan Fabian was one of them.
"If you would have asked me a decade ago, 'Susan, what are you passionate about?' I would have been like, 'NASCAR!'" said Fabian with a laugh.
But a lot has changed for Susan Fabian over the past few years.
A divorce left her and her two daughters homeless.
While they were living in a shelter, she decided to apply to UW-L.
"Going to college probably was the one thing that kept me on-track with saying, 'This is what it's going to take to get my life pulled together so that I can support my children on my own,’" said Fabian.
As someone who holds down multiple part-time jobs, organizes community events and advocates for struggling student parents, Fabian wears many hats. On Sunday, she got to wear a new one: a UW-L graduation cap.
While she doesn't get a diploma for being a single mom, Fabian said she hopes her daughters learn something from their journey together.
“They're going to get knocked down. Everybody gets knocked down, you know? It's how you get back up,” said Fabian.
Fabian said her biggest accomplishment during her time at UW-L has been creating an organized network of student parents between UW-L, Viterbo University and Western Technical College. It's a way for those parents to connect and problem-solve together so they don't feel so alone in their academic journeys.
Fabian plans to apply to UW- Madison for a Master's in Public Affairs. Her long-term aspiration is to someday run for political office.
She was one of 543 undergraduate and 129 graduate students who walked across the stage on Sunday, and into the next chapter of their lives.