In the fall, she will begin work on her master's degree in public relations at Ball State University in Muncie.
"I had to learn how to balance and struggle with having a family, work and school," the 36-year-old said. "I had to set priorities. What I had to give up most was time. I had to learn to be realistic on how much I could work -- I still had bills to pay -- and Matthew's school activities, work, studying enough and going to class. I can tell you I have just about completely given up having a social life."
But the struggle has brought her closer to her now 14-year-old son.
"I was always an introvert growing up, more apt to read a book than hit a ball," she said. "My son's really into sports. With me going back to school we've found another connection. When I went back and the first time I picked up my books, he was 9. He got in the car and said, 'Can I see your books, Mom?' So we traded books. He's always asking to see my report card. From all of this, he's seen me persevere and stick through school to the end."
Ousley also had to force herself not to fret over not being able to be there full time for her son.
"I would go to his ball games and study and ask my ex-mother-in-law to let me know when he was up to bat so I could watch," she said with laugh. "So many parents going back to school want to still be able to play the full role as a parent, but they can't. You have to be creative in the time that you spend with them. Your role changes when you go back to school."
Throughout the last three years, Ousley has worked as a student assistant in the media and electronic communications department at Anderson University.
"She's just a wonderful testimony to perseverance and someone who has a great deal of faith at the core of her life," said Chris Williams, spokesman for Anderson University and Ousley's boss.
"There were a lot of challenges that she needed to work through to get to this point in her life. We had no doubt she could do it."
As she graduates, however, her student job ends and her hunt for a career more in line with what she loves to do -- public relations and journalism -- begins full-time. But while searching for that new line of work, Ousley will continue to occasionally freelance articles for magazines and Web sites as she has since she began attending AU.
"It's an alternate income," she said. "I don't want to go back just getting by like I did before. I went to school to better my life and my son's and I'm going to pursue a career that will do that.
"I tell people while he was growing this way (she gestures up), I was growing intellectually," Ousley continued. "Going back to school not only changed the direction my life was going, but really bonded my son and I together."
---STACEY M. LANE GROSH is a Features Editor for the Anderson Herald-Bulletin.