OGDEN -- All 10 members of the Pentz family collected Weber State University diplomas Friday.
Mother Sonia De Los Santos Pentz, 42, was awarded her bachelor of fine arts degree in an afternoon ceremony, a few hours after the rest of the Morgan County family, from dad Troy Pentz, 44, to the eight Pentz kids, age 3 to 17, got their PST diplomas.
PST stands for Putting Student Through. Eighty supportive family members and friends accepted PST diplomas after being nominated by their graduating students.
For the average spring graduation, the number of associated free PST awards handed out is usually 100 to 150.
"I'm so happy to see my children get their degrees before I did," Pentz said of the honorary awards. "Everyone worked so hard to help me get through Weber State."
While Pentz was studying art or in class, her husband and the older kids helped baby-sit, cook and bake. The younger kids cooperated with siblings to get homework done. The kids are Ashly, 17; Kassandra, 16; Wisper, 14; Destini, 12; Summer, 10; Josh, 7; Ambrosia, 6; and Serenity, 3.
"I told the children if their grades went down I would drop out," Pentz said. "But their grades went up. I think they started to understand how important a good education really is."
"I'm glad she's done," Summer said of her mom's graduation. "Now we'll have more time together, to do family nights, and maybe go on a vacation."
Summer said she'll probably take a picture of her PST certificate, then put the original someplace safe. In the future, she hopes to attend WSU and earn her own bachelor's degree, she said.
Ashly said she plans to get hers at Utah State University. She liked the PST ceremony and didn't mind the extra baby-sitting all that much.
But, she said with a smile, "I'm glad it's over."
Pentz first met husband, Troy, while he was serving a mission in Uruguay for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She wrote him letters after he returned to Utah, and he wrote back.
He returned to Uruguay a few years later for a vacation and invited Sonia on a date. They married four days later, then returned to Utah for a second wedding in an LDS temple.
In Uruguay, Sonia Pentz had taken three years of college, completing half of the requirements for a six-year architecture degree.
In Utah, the Pentzes agreed Sonia would take English classes and they would have a few kids before she returned to college.
Both would work in the family business, Gringo Construction, which Sonia Pentz named for the word her relatives had used to describe her groom.
Seven children later, Sonia Pentz saw the economy falter and decided the long-postponed diploma might increase her earning power. She managed to complete her four-year degree, with honors, in the prescribed four years, which these days is a rare feat.
Oh, and she took the classes in her second language, and she had another baby.
"My easiest pregnancy, because I was too busy to think about it," she said, laughing.
Pentz hopes all of her children will follow in her footsteps and go to college, and so far, everyone seems to be on board.
Nikki Nicholas, coordinator of union programs, said the PST program has been in place about as long as anyone can remember.
"It used to be called Putting Hubby Through," she said, "but education and the world have changed since then."
Over the years, PST awards have gone to professors, friends, parents, children and one seeing-eye dog.
"It's really a great way to recognize those people who have loved you and supported you," Nicholas said. "I would say, seeing all the tears I did today, that it means a lot to the students and their families."
Nicholas said she knows of no other Utah university that gives certificates to student supporters: "It's unique to Weber State, as far as I know."
Pentz said she'll be happy to spend more time with her family, and she hopes to use her new art degree by opening her own studio, to teach others. She's got lots of friends in Croyden who want to be part of the project, she said.
Troy Pentz said he's not surprised his wife of 19 years was able to finish her degree so fast and so well. And he doesn't doubt that she'll open an art studio, if that's what she sets her mind to next.
"If you knew her, you wouldn't even ask," he said. "She's pretty determined. She makes up her mind, and she gets it done."