I was the Mini Cooper and the windy bridge, life.

That was the gist of my college entrance essay, my answer to the question of “Why do you want a degree?” My answer, in short, was heft.

I envision a degree as a lead weight in the back of a small car crossing a windy bridge. You can have talent and skills, but those letters after your name legitimatize you, tell the world you can. They make the world sit up and take notice.

At least, I hoped that was the case.

I’m almost at the end of my bachelor’s degree. I got into it quite late, but I never lost sight of the goal. After every job interview and when I close each freelance deal, I feel compelled to continue working toward that piece of paper. The paper that would prove to business folk that the “creative” they hired is someone to be taken seriously.

I have a few classes left and my journey has led me to a course in journalism. My assignment: “Interview an outstanding member of your community.”

So whom do I interview? A mother, of course. A woman with a large family who, in between giving birth and shuttling children to school, has opened an Orthodox online college. The curriculum and material are put together in-house by professors who come from a Torah perspective. Her two goals: providing a degree that allows graduates the immediate ability to earn a parnassah, and creating a Judaic studies degree emerging exclusively from a wholesome Torah background, untainted by outside influences.

The morning of our meeting, she calls to reschedule. Her son needs to be taken to the doctor. She offers to squeeze me in after bedtime and before her daughters’ PTA.

That evening, I sit and listen to the petite, almost fragile woman who is the quiet strength behind this seemingly impossible task — building a college from the ground up.

We’re not finished, but she looks at her watch — PTA starts soon. “Walk with me,” she offers.

I wait in the spotlit courtyard of the elementary school while she checks her place in the line. Wind ripples the branches, traffic flows by and occasionally, a mother scurries off into the night.

“Three parents ahead of me,” she announces upon her return. “We have at least 20 minutes.”

We discuss the route she took to get her college to where it is today, one step away from accreditation. The hoops she had to jump through. Rolling with the punches.

She discusses one such hoop. In order to get accreditation from the government, you need to have students attending every part of your program. In order to get students to attend your program, you need to be accredited. Obviously, recruiting students is a challenge. So then, I ask, what kind of students can you recruit? Who comes to a college that doesn’t offer an accredited degree?

Her eyes glimmer. “Well,” she says, “all our students come for different reasons. There’s this one woman — but you can meet her. She’ll be stopping by soon to pick something up.” Moments later, a woman enters the courtyard. The college director introduces us. “This is Rebbetzin Green. I’m going to check on the line, why don’t you two talk?” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 589)