OGDEN -- Twelve months ago, Susan Mosteller found herself desperate and considering a drastic life change.
The Kaysville resident said after 13 years of domestic abuse, she was questioning her value and her potential. Despite being jobless, she was considering leaving her marriage.
"I was asking myself, 'Really, Susan? This is all you want? This is all you get?'" said Mosteller, now 36 and a speaker Tuesday at Weber State's Venture Course graduation ceremony. "So I packed up and left, and through a strange series of events, I ended up in this program. And Venture gave me back my life."
Mosteller was one of 17 graduates to earn 2013 program diplomas. The Venture Course, now in its fifth year at Weber State, gives about 25 students a year a chance to take three terms of night classes on a wide range of humanities topics. Students who otherwise could not afford college put in two hours each on Tuesday and Thursday nights, with transportation costs paid and childcare provided.
WSU professors from a variety of disciplines teach the Venture students. Costs are paid by donations, made by entities including the Alan E. Hall & Jeanne H. Hall Endowment for Community Outreach, O.C. Tanner Company and the Utah Humanities Council. Classes are free and translate into 10 hours of college credit. For information, visit www.utahhumanities.org/Venture.htm.
"When you are in an abusive relationship, you think it will be easy when you leave, because you will be free, but it's not," said Mosteller, the mother of kids ages 5, 8 and 18. "I was just completely directionless. But with Venture being there, I had people to support me, to help me, to remind me I am intelligent. I can think for myself, I can do for myself and I can create a better life without abuse than I had with abuse."
Mosteller is applying for scholarships and aid, and hopes to continue her WSU education as a psychology major. Her dream career is helping suicidal teens find hope and move forward in a positive, healthful way.
"Venture was exactly what I needed, because the courses were empowering, from philosophy, which changes everything about the way you think, to studying the Holocaust, to cancer issues in Utah, to English literature, U.S. history to women's rights, slavery and equality. All of these courses empowered me, and I want to empower other people to make important changes in their lives."
Venture Course graduate Tina Gomez talked about bad choices she made earlier in life, and of being a methamphetamine addict and a mother by age 16. Now 35, Gomez, of Ogden, said she has been drug free for a decade.
"I decided to turn my life around, and I wanted to be able to see my kids," said Gomez, who had six children, one of whom lives with her. Two went to adoptive homes, she said, and three are in the custody of others.
"Without family and friends, I never would have been able to make changes," she said. "I had been thinking about going to school, off and on. As a single mom with tight finances, I thought I should do it now or never."
Gomez plans to apply her 10 credits to a WSU technical sales degree. She is happily employed at a local call center.
"I work for a good company, and I want to be able to give back," she said. "The Venture Course taught me I could go back to school and be successful. I learned I can do all things I dreamed about when I was younger. I value myself more because I know I can achieve what I want."
Tonia Wilson, who helms WSU's Venture Course program, thanked her diverse students for their hard work, their commitment and for becoming a supportive group of friends who rallied when one among them, Marisa Galvan, learned her cancerous tumors had returned for a third time. Galvan completed the first term of the Venture Course before leaving for medical treatment and has been invited to return next year to complete her work.
"I was excited, because this was something I could do," said Galvan, 22, of the Venture Course. "I was a good student at (Layton's) Northridge High School and was named the best student of the year. Northridge was very supportive of me."
Treatments for the initial and recurring brain tumors left Galvan unable to walk, talk or eat, she said. But she overcame and hoped to attend college.
"With the medical bills, I can't afford tuition," she said. "I want to go to school to be an RN and work at Primary Children's. I want to show people in my life that they should never give up."
Before the diplomas were handed out, with handshakes and hugs, Wilson had one more question for her students.
"I have the highest expectations for you all," she said, smiling. "So, what are you registering for in the fall?"