ROCK HILL S.C. -- Sheri Perez-Segura begins her daily routine of dropping her three children off to school at 7:15 a.m.
"You have your book bag," she asked.
It takes her an hour to drop her 9, 11 and 15-year-old off as she loops around Rock Hill. But Sheri's day actually starts at 3 a.m. That's when the single mom has time to do her own schoolwork. At 41, she is a month away from getting her Bachelor's degree from Winthrop University.
"Who would have ever imagined that a sixth-grade dropout would be a senior in college," she beamed.
Sheri first quit school at 13. She says her family didn't value education and wanted her to help take care of her younger brothers. For work, she waited tables, babysat or worked in grocery stores. It wasn't until her oldest daughter Tiffany, now 21, told her she wanted to drop out, that a decision she made in the sixth grade came back to haunt her.
"She said to me, 'but you quit,' and that was the moment that I realized I had to do something," Sheri said.
Sheri enrolled in a GED program in February 2011 at the age of 35. Her GED teacher also taught her daughter's ninth-grade class. It took Sheri three months to earn her GED.
Ten days later she enrolled in York Technical College and then transferred to Winthrop. She admits, she's had some help along the way. Sheri is a three-time recipient of the Answer Scholarship, which provides support for moms of school-aged children.
Susan Andersen founded the scholarship back in 2006, originally funding it with her own money. A Mary Kay consultant, she worked with many struggling moms and she decided to help any way she could.
"You educate a mom, you educate her children, and I really believe we are helping break the cycle of poverty one family at a time," said Andersen.
Answer has awarded 88 scholarships to 44 women ranging from $1500 to 5000. But even the financial support isn't always enough to keep moms in school. So Answer created Mentors for Moms, which pairs moms who have completed their studies with moms still in school.
"As program coordinator, nobody is going to quit on my watch," said Sonya Muhammad.
Muhammad is Sheri's mentor. She was a single mom of two when she enrolled at UNCC. Muhammad knows what it is like to have to balance the responsibilities of being a mom and a student.
"I worked for Harris Teeter for seven years, third shift, and then I went to school full time and I was able to schedule my classes around taking my children to from school and picking them up from school, and afterward, we'd all come home and do homework," she said.
Muhammad now has a Master's degree and is a licensed Mental health therapist. She knows if she could do it then so can Sheri. And when Sheri was at her lowest, a call from Sonya gave her hope
"Last September, I wanted to quit, not only school, but I wanted to quit Sheri," she said. "I was tired and I didn't think I could go on anymore. That phone call saved my life."
And this journey is not just helping Sheri, it is inspiring her children.
"I told my mom a lot that she's my hero for doing what she does," said Lilia, 11.
However, Sheri says it is her children that inspire her.
"In all honesty, my kids are my heroes because they supported me and they've pushed me," she said.
Even when she couldn't push herself.
"I said I just can't do this paper, she (Lilia) said, 'that paper is our ticket, that paper is our ticket, so you don't have to worry about the finances, for you to not have to worry about where the next meal is going to come from,'" Sheri cried.
Sheri is expected to graduate in May, and when she finishes, this victory won't just be hers. Driving along with her children, they sing along to Katy Perry, "don't doubt it, don't doubt it, victory is in your veins."
The Answer Scholarship is open to mothers of school-aged children in the Charlotte metro area. Anderson says the scholarship is currently supporting 13 mothers this year, the goal is to provide 50 scholarships annually.
While 52% of parents who go back to school drop out, 87% of Answer scholarship recipients graduate. For more information about Answer, please visit www.answerscholarship.org.