A Family Affair

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Three down, one to go.
Taking classes at the University of Nevada, Reno has been a
family affair for four members of Reno's Fyfe family the past few
The father and one daughter graduated from UNR in 2003 and the
mother, Shari Fyfe, will receive her master's degree during
tomorrow's commencement. Another daughter, Shannon, is on track to
earn her bachelor's degree from the university next year.
Shari Fyfe, 42, said she never would have dreamed of earning the
degree in early childhood special education back when she dropped
out of high school.
"It dawned on me the other day that it's been a long road from
being a teenage mom and a high school dropout," said Fyfe, who
works with abused, neglected and disabled children through Nevada
Early Intervention Services, a state agency under the Department of
Human Resources.
She admits that while pursuing their degrees, the family had
some tough times juggling their jobs, studies and home life. She
said everyone's schedule was posted on the refrigerator and they
had to "tag-team" use of two home computers.
"Dan and I would use the computers when the kids were sleeping
or they'd use it when we were working or fixing dinner," she told
the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Fyfe was 16 when she dropped out of high school 26 years ago to
take care of what would be the first of her and her husband's three
Determined to keep her promise to her father, she decided to get
a general equivalency diploma at age 18. She got an associate
degree in child development from Truckee Meadows Community College
in 1994 and a bachelor's degree four years later from UNR.
In fall 2001, Fyfe, her husband, Dan, and their two daughters,
Valerie and Shannon, were taking classes on the Reno campus at the
same time.
Since then, Dan Fyfe, a mechanic for the Sara Lee Bakery Group,
has a bachelor's degree in English. Daughter Valerie Leitko, 25,
married and living in Las Vegas, received a bachelor's in health
ecology, and 22-year-old Shannon is scheduled to graduate next year
with a degree in psychology and hopes to become a licensed drug
The Fyfes also have a 20-year-old son, Ryan, who lives in Las
For Shari Fyfe, her education opened the door to her dream job
of working with special needs children, her husband said.
"Years ago, she clipped an ad for the job she now has and put
it on our refrigerator," Dan Fyfe said. "It was up there for six
or seven years until it turned yellow with age, and that's the job
she has now."