CORVALLIS - An Oregon State University graduate from Bend has earned the Outstanding Nontraditional Student Award from the University Continuing Education Association Region West. The organization includes dozens of member universities throughout Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho, Utah, Alaska, Hawaii and Montana. The award honors students for excellence in pursuit of continuing education.

"My initial reaction was 'wow, this is incredible,'" said Delia Costley-Jones, who was nominated for the award by Barbara Moon, director of Continuing Education at OSU.

Costley-Jones, who graduated from OSU last June with a bachelor's degree in liberal studies, summa cum laude, is now preparing to go to law school. Born with cystic fibrosis and only one lung, her path has been anything but easy.

"I came very close to not being on this Earth at all," Costley-Jones said.

Her story includes a difficult divorce, raising her children on her own and realizing she needed to advance her education to support her family. She enrolled at Central Oregon Community College in Bend and completed her associate of arts degree in 1997. Though OSU's Distance and Continuing Education program, she continued work on an undergraduate degree while remaining in Bend with her family.

"My experience with Oregon State University has always been wonderful," she said. "Everybody at Oregon State really has the desire to see students succeed and they are always very approachable. But, like anything, a lot of education is what you make of it - what you put into it."

Costley-Jones says she follows a simple philosophy, which she is passing on to her children. "I've tried to raise my children with my three ingredients for success: diligence, dedication and determination. That's what it takes to do your very best."

She volunteers as a translator at St. Charles Medical Center and also works as a victim's assistant court advocate for the Deschutes County District Attorney's Office. And she helped lead efforts to organize a cultural diversity program through the Depart ment of Community Justice.

"I've done a great deal of community service and wasn't expecting a pat on the back for it," she said. "I have just always been very dedicated and determined to complete my degree and I work hard at setting good values and standards for my family and thos e around me so that my contributions to the community can have a lasting impact."

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Delia Costley-Jones, 541-382-6345