Single father commences new stage of life with college degree

College can be difficult and expensive, but James Wood knows it’s even tougher when you’re a single father of two.

Wood, 33, originally from Cleveland, divorced in 2006 and is raising 9-year-old son Jace and 12-year-old daughter Krystina.

The full-time student at Nevada State College and his family live on a tight budget that relies on student financial aid.

“I live on everything I receive from the school,” he said. “It’s just basically living tight and being careful with my budget to get by.”

But despite the challenges of being a single parent and having financial limitations, Wood will graduate with his bachelor’s degree in psychology and a 4.0 grade point average. On Saturday morning, he will join about 314 other Nevada State College students during the college’s spring commencement.

“I’m really grateful for my experience in college,” he said. “It changed who I am for the better.”

Before deciding to go back to school in 2008, Wood used to work in organized labor. He also tried real estate for a while, but soon after, the housing bubble burst.

He then enrolled at the College of Southern Nevada and later transferred to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ Honors College. In 2009, he transferred back to Nevada State College because he changed his major and tuition was more affordable.

Since he became a student, he has tried to be a role model for his two children. Seeing dad as a student especially inspired his daughter, he said.

“We do our work together,” he said. “I help them with their homework, and in the evening, we still spend time together.”

Because of their busy school schedules, the three get to spend the most time together on weekends, he said. It has taken a lot of time management and hard work to get to this point, but Wood said it was worth it.

“It’s definitely helped my own self- worth,” he said.

But Saturday’s graduation won’t be the end of Wood’s education. In the fall, he will attend UNLV’s Boyd School of Law with a full scholarship. He hopes to focus on public interest law, which includes civil rights and human rights, among other areas.

“I just value the sense of community,” he said. “It will be a good fit for me because I will be able to help people.”

During his college career, he partnered with the Andson Foundation, a local nonprofit focused on community education. He was part of a project that provided financial literacy sessions for students at Bracken Elementary School .

The project taught students how to save money and got parents involved. Wood said the school serves an economically depressed area with high unemployment rates and low education levels.

Richard Yao, a counseling lecturer at Nevada State College, was Wood’s supervising faculty member for that project. Yao said Wood only earned three credits for the independent study, but he worked on it all year. Wood’s dedication to academic performance was one of the reasons Yao nominated him to be highlighted during the graduation ceremony.

“He was on top of everything,” Yao said. “He represented Nevada State College very well.”

Contact Yesenia Amaro at yamaro@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440.