When Yvonne Sera of Tigard graduated from Warner Pacific University in 2013, she received her bachelor’s degree with a double major in business administration and accounting.

But she likes to joke that what she really should have gotten is a multi-student discount.

By the end of the decade, if all goes according to plan, Sera, her sons Mack and Jackson, Jackson’s girlfriend Samantha Howell and Howell’s cousin Dylan Hutchinson will all be Warner Pacific graduates.

I have four of them all in college, because that’s what I do,” Sera said. “I make children go to college.”

Sera grew up in California and, at first, wasn’t sure about higher education.

“At the time they were talking about all these kids going to college with all this debt and nobody could get a job,” she said. “I thought, why do I want to go?”

She went to a community college for a while, then took family advice and looked for a government job. She ended up working 16 years for the IRS, eventually as a federal tax auditor. By the mid-2000s, married and living in Oregon with her two sons, she started thinking about finishing her four-year degree. 

Some of her coworkers were going to Warner Pacific, so she checked out their adult degree program and decided to join them. 

Juggling work, school and family wasn’t easy, but Sera persisted. She wanted to get ahead and knew the degree was her best bet. She knew it would give her the edge in competing for jobs, and would help pay for special things, such as a trip to Mexico this year following a tough tax season.

“It gave me the tools to say, ‘Not only can I do taxes, but I’m an accountant. See that degree hanging on the wall?’ she said. “It was a busy, busy time, but I showed my kids that even at whatever age I was at the time, it’s still important to go to school.”

Mack and Jackson were listening. Both played soccer and were impressed by Warner Pacific’s program. A coach invited Mack to join the team and followed up with an invitation to Jackson, too. Both decided to both play and enroll.

Sera encouraged Jackson’s girlfriend, who lives with the family, to think about joining the brothers at school. The young woman had done some classes online with Portland Community College during the COVID shutdown and was interested in nursing.

“I just pushed them all,” Sera said. “I said, ‘You guys have to go to school. Sammy, you want to be a nurse, but you can’t be a nurse if you don’t go to college.’”

All three enrolled at Warner Pacific in August 2023. Mack is pursuing a sports medicine degree with a minor in kinesiology, and the other two are studying pre nursing. All are in their second semester and all three earned grades to make the Dean’s List for their first. 

“I’m so proud!” Sera said.

Next up: Howell’s cousin, Dylan Hutchinson, who joined the family last October when he had to move out of his living situation. 

“In December, I said, ‘You need to go to school. You’re not going to get any further without going to school,’” Sera recalled. “We got him registered in January.”

Warner Pacific provides a great college experience because of its small classes, personal attention and friendly atmosphere, Sera said. “I love that the community is here for them.”

To her, however, the bottom line is that higher education somewhere is the key to the future. Without it, she said, she doesn’t think she would have had the confidence to leave the IRS and open her own business, Compass Tax Solutions LLC, which she did in 2016.

“I wanted my kids to know I worked hard to get that degree, because they watched me go to school, they watched me go to work, they watched all the things I had to do to get that piece of paper,” she said. “And that piece of paper has given me the independence to support my family, my kids, move ahead in life – and enjoy Mexico.”