Theresa Bennett got her high school diploma Wednesday because she wants her three children to grow up knowing you can undo mistakes. And with a little help from the community, you can change your life.

Bennett had two children and was pregnant with a third when she became homeless.At the Salt Lake Community Shelter and Resource Center, the single mother learned of a program called Even Start, a joint project of the shelter and the Salt Lake School District. Homeless families attend classes at Lincoln or Jackson Elementary schools to improve their parenting skills, learn to use computers, finish their high school educations, get GEDs - the equivalent of a high school diploma - and more.

When she was a teen, her family moved around a lot. She was never in one place long enough to make friends. And she had trouble with school. It was a time, she said, where crowded classrooms meant "if you're slow, they put you in the back of the class and let you deal with it yourself."

She chose not to deal with it and dropped out in the 11th grade.

The homeless shelter was not her dream house, she said. She wanted to be independent. But she knew she'd never get a job that would support her children if she didn't finish her education. The shelter turned out, however, to be the doorway to that dream.

She attended the Even Start classes at both schools to do it, going four days a week from 3:30 to 7 p.m.

The process of learning - and of taking control of her own life to do it - has given Bennett the confidence to make major changes, she said. Her family received subsidized housing and they were able to move out of the shelter. Now she's ready to hit the job market.

She's hoping to land a spot in an apprenticeship program for plumbers. "If I get that, I would earn enough to be off everything," she said. "Taxpayers wouldn't have to pay my way and I'd be a taxpayer helping someone else."