Doris Morgan-Bloom was a 16-year old high school dropout, newly married with a baby on the way.

On Friday-- nine kids and 31 years of hard work later-- she received her college diploma.Morgan-Bloom's children were there to see their mom walk across the stage at Texas A & M University. And they will remember the way she worked full- and part-time jobs while first earning a high school equivalency degree and then a bachelor's degree in psychology.

Although she had dreamed of someday earning a college degree, Bloom said she put her dream on hold while working as a housewife and rearing children. Then, after 15 years of marriage, her husband, Reuben Bloom, was killed by a drunk driver while driving home from work.

The death, Bloom said, "turned my life upside down."

"I had eight children and another on the way," Bloom recalled. "Once I got over the initial shock and hurt, then I realized there was something more to do."

Bloom said she would not allow herself to become "a welfare mom."

"I didn't want my children to grow up that way," she said, "to know that type of lifestyle."

Bloom began working full-time and taking high school equivalency classes. By 1979, she had received her certificate and gained praise from her instructors and friends, who said she should pursue a college degree. In 1983, she enrolled part-time at Prairie view A & M University, driving more than an hour each way from her home.

"I was comfortable raising my children," Bloom said. "I wasn't nearly as comfortable going back into the classroom."

In her three classes at Prairie View, Bloom earned grades of A, B and C. But later, when she enrolled at nearby Blinn College, Bloom failed her first class, history.

The praise she had heaped on her family came back when her children encouraged her to overcome the setback. "So I went back to Blinn and replaced the F in the history class with a B," Bloom said.

There were other obstacles. Sometimes the children would barely have enough to eat trying to make ends meet on Bloom's salary as a bank teller. Often, the children would pitch in, working at fast-food restaurants or dusting and cleaning neighbors' homes.

Bloom's days would begin at 5:30 a.m. so she could get the children off to day care or school, then attend an early morning class herself before work. Often she would also take evening classes and study late into the night.

As a result, the elder children were expected to cook, clean and make sure everyone did their school work.

"My children would ask me if we were poor," Bloom recalled. "I would tell them we weren't. I would say my father was rich. Of course I was talking about my father in heaven."

Soon after being laid off as a bank teller in 1992, Bloom got a major break. Texas A & M offered her a scholarship and the opportunity to study full-time. Bloom finished her degree in two years, paying for it through an assortment of loans, grants and scholarships.

"Giving me the opportunity to go full-time to school gave me a chance to excel," Bloom said. "But if this didn't work out, I knew something else would. We have a saying in church: 'If the door closes, God will open up a window.'"

Bloom's success also may be measured by the success of her children. Eight of her five boys and four girls, ranging in age from 17 to 31, are attending or have graduated from college. The youngest, Johnathan, a high school sophomore, plans to study engineering.

Doris Bloom said her next goal is to gain a doctorate in psychology in an attempt to help others.

"I want to counsel families with problems," she said, "people who are struggling."