Young widow with two children plans to take control of her life with college

Lisa Despain, right, holds her 2.5 month-old baby boy Talon Despain, as she talks with Fran Morales a mentor for Mesa State College in Morales office at Mesa State.

Lisa DeSpain was on her own when she was 15 and living in Meeker, working at several restaurant jobs and taking classes.

Soon after graduating from Meeker High School, she moved to Grand Junction and went to work at a restaurant and her life moved on.

Then she met Sean DeSpain, and things changed. They moved in together and four years ago had a son, Tyrus.

The couple wed June 28, 2008.

On July 30, Sean died in an auto accident in Grand Junction on his way to work.

Once again, Lisa DeSpain was on her own.

This time, though, she has Tyrus and now his little brother, Talan.

On Thursday, DeSpain made a move to regain control of her life. She enrolled at Mesa State College.

Sitting in the office of Shannon Hawkins, a financial-aid counselor, DeSpain started down a new course.

Flanked by Leslie Arroyo, who was Sean’s teacher at R-5 High School, and Mesa State mentor Fran Morales, DeSpain and Hawkins applied for scholarships and looked for any other financial aid that might be available.

Lisa and Sean had at first settled on the idea he would work and she would stay at home.

She concluded soon after the wedding that she might need to get an education “if anything happened.”

“I guess I just had an intuition,” she said.

Though she always planned to go to college, her first choice, art, would never have worked, DeSpain said.

“I just would have wasted the money,” she said.

At Mesa State, she will start with general-education classes, and the goal is to get a business degree.

To get there, she’ll have Morales’ help, which started Wednesday with heaps of advice about how to enroll, where to look for help, how to deal with professors and so on.

DeSpain is one of about 300 students to whom Morales offers similar help and a sympathetic ear.

“If you’re happy and healthy,” Morales told her, “you’re much more likely to be successful in school.”

As a single mother and widow, DeSpain is unusual, Morales told her, reminding her she can’t allow the past to trip her up.

“It’s my stepping-stone now,” DeSpain said.

However intimidating the idea of attending classes and taking finals might seem, Morales said, “You’ve survived a lot worse than college.”

“Yes,” DeSpain said, “I have.”


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