At age 37, I was a stay-at-home mother of three young children and in the midst of a divorce. I knew I needed an education or I wouldn’t be able to secure a job doing much of anything.

I began a paralegal program at North Shore Community College with the intent of obtaining my associate’s degree, which was all I thought I was capable of doing. But soon I realized I wanted to attend law school, which seemed like such a far reach for someone who was older, didn’t do well in high school, and had financial challenges.

By luck, I found the 18-month Fast-Track program at Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies. I applied, was accepted, and decided to pursue a bachelor’s in leadership. But there was another roadblock: How was I going to pay for this? I applied for every scholarship I could find and was fortunate to receive a Spirit Scholarship, which was the beginning of many opportunities for me. At the time, I didn’t know the origin of the Spirit Scholarship, but I’ve since learned that it was started by André Laus. My goal now is to help fund future Spirit scholars, over time, in thanks for what was given to me.

Money was one obstacle; confidence was another. You have this fear—especially when you’re older and have no education—“Northeastern? I can’t do the work; there’s no way I’ll be able to keep up.” So I’ll never forget my first professor, John Sullivan, for English, who set the tone for the entire program. He was so compassionate. I had many wonderful professors, but he struck me as exceptional. I graduated from Northeastern with a 3.95 GPA at the top of my class.

In 2012, I earned my juris doctor from the Massachusetts School of Law. I passed the bar exam and have since launched my own practice. My passion is special education law and child advocacy.

It’s been an unbelievable journey. What keeps me grounded and focused is how I started, where I was. You have the attitude that this is what I’m going to do, and you just do it.

I am where I am today because of Northeastern and my family, and I’m forever grateful.

André A. Laus, UC’69, founded the Spirit Scholarship Fund in 2001 to honor the determination of part-time and evening students pursuing degrees in higher education. “I’m delighted that Cheryl McCormick, as a former Spirit scholar, is paying the gift of education forward to others,” says Laus.