College graduation season is upon us and, happily, thousands of Mainers have collected and will be collecting their diplomas, rewarded for their hard work.

Emily Wood of Poland is among this year’s college graduation class.

A student at Lewiston-Auburn College, Wood is the University of Southern Maine Class of 2006’s Outstanding Senior of the year.

She is, by any definition, a nontraditional student.

She also is, by any definition, a determined, successful woman.

The mother of a 10-year-old, Wood was working a job in a laundry in Raymond just six years ago. Wanting more, she applied for and was accepted in Maine’s Parents as Scholars program, a program that provides financial support to single parents for such essentials as food and child care so they can go to school.

Wood did more than just go to school. She excelled there, earning nearly all A’s in her studies in psychology and social sciences. She benefited so greatly from her experience that she pushed for the creation of a liaison for the Parents as Scholars program to help other single parents recognize their potential to attend college. She created the job, and then she landed it.

As the program’s liaison, Wood is an advocate for single parents who want to better themselves but who may not understand how to go about the process. Wood can help, not only because she has the skills to do it, but because she’s walked that road and recognizes the journey.

The goal of this outstanding student was to make a better life for herself and her son. Her accomplishment is far greater: She is living determination that college – and the earning potential of a degree – is accessible to anyone who reaches and works for it.