'HOW ARE you going to go back to school with six babies and a mother and aunt who are fighting cancer? You're crazy!"

Those were the words I constantly heard when contemplating nursing school. With five children under the age of 4 and against all odds, I started nursing school at La Salle University.

My only motivation has been my children and that so many women give up at their dreams when they are a single parent. I have one boy and five girls (two sets of twins). They range in age from 5 to 13 years old.

Two days after starting nursing school, I married my longtime fiancé. My mother was battling cancer, and not only was I a full-time employee, but also the sole provider for my family. Soon after starting, I wanted to quit.

It was all too overwhelming, but my professors, along with family and friends, kept motivating me. Then my marriage fell apart. I became a single mother, was going through a horrible custody case, and my best friend, who happens to be my aunt and babysitter, was also diagnosed with cancer. My life couldn't have gotten any worse.

And there's more: I live in North Philadelphia, and my block was on the news recently because a neighbor was shot three doors down from my home. The very next day, a big shoot-out happened directly around the corner. My block was shut for hours, and my children had to witness this. I was forced to move there because it was all I could afford.

My children also had to endure the difficulties that their dad and I went through in our relationship. But I believe the marriage could have become much more troublesome if I hadn't left.

What I really want is to get the message out to women who've been in or are currently in abusive relationships to leave before it gets worse, and to follow their dreams, because anything is possible. That belief is what kept me motivated.

I had to borrow several thousand dollars to pay for some child-care costs and bills. Every day was a challenge trying to figure out who would watch my children. Sometimes I'd miss class because I didn't have a sitter.

At times, I'd be up till 3 a.m. studying because that was the only time I had to myself, and then I had to get back up at 6. Almost every day, I cried from complete exhaustion, but then I'd look around and think, "I have to give my babies a better life." My children would look at me with tears in their eyes, and say, " 'Mommy, it's going to be OK, don't be sad.' "

And if that wasn't enough, I had to change my work schedule, which meant asking the School of Nursing and Health Sciences to let me take day classes even though I was in the evening Achieve Program, and also let me take weekend clinicals although I was taking a day class.

But now that I've done it, I'm extremely humbled.

I can say that I did this by myself. But the truth is, it was all trial and error. There really wasn't any particular way that I managed to overcome my obstacles, but I did!

And I've learned so many things, but not only about my nursing career. Again, I urge women who have been or are in abusive relationships, whether verbal, emotional or physical, to leave before it gets worse, and to follow their dreams, because it is all possible.

Many times we have to be our own support system and that, too, is OK - you will overcome if you just believe! These are the things that kept me motivated.

Now, with all the happiness and joy in my heart, I'm so proud and very humbled to say, for me and my fellow students, that we're graduates of La Salle's 2011 Nursing Achieve Program!

Shayla Morales Robinson earned her bachelor's degree in nursing from La Salle University on May 15.