When Startese “Star” Sims looks back on her first year as an evening law student, there’s a difficult moment that stands out.

While everyone at home was celebrating her daughter’s 10th birthday, Sims was sitting in class distracted by the idea of missing the look on her daughter’s face as she was presented with her first bike.

“That’s when I started to tear-up,” she said.

Sims was feeling the pressure of balancing many roles – caring wife, mother of five, full-time worker, and law school student. Many students consider the first year of studying law as the most challenging, and Sims seriously thought about throwing in the towel.

Realizing a longtime dream

Dean of Students Laura Ferrari gave her a pep talk, and Sims looked to her past for personal inspiration.

“I’ve wanted to become a lawyer since I was seven years old,” she said. “That was my dream. I had to keep going.”

Now, Sims’ longtime dream will come true when she graduates with the Suffolk Law School Class of 2017.

“When I first started law school four years ago, nobody or nothing could have prepared me for the journey that I was about to take,” she said. “But now, looking back, the knowledge that I have gained is indescribable.”

During most semesters, Sims, 43, was in class Monday through Thursday evenings. She left her home in Avon every day between 7 and 7:30 a.m. and drove to downtown Boston for her job as director of human rights for the Department of Mental Health.

After work, Sims walked six blocks to Suffolk Law School. When her classes were over, sometimes as late at 10 o’clock, she walked back and drove home, arriving around 11 p.m., when everyone was asleep.

“I’ve had to sacrifice a lot, but it has been well worth it,” she said.

Putting skills to work

Sims, whose goal is to become a lawyer in the mental health field, says she already has incorporated the “important and useful skills” learned at Suffolk Law— from reading and briefing cases to oral arguments, legal writing, and participating as an e-board member—into her work at the Department of Mental Health.

“Star is one of the hardest working students I have met in sixteen years of teaching,” said Suffolk Law Professor Frank Rudy Cooper. “She came to see me early and often, did extra exercises, and followed through on her commitments. She is a wonderful person and will represent Suffolk well as a lawyer.”

Sims sees her success as a family affair, given the role her husband, Stevie, played while she fulfilled her law school commitment. He assumed all responsibility for household tasks and took their young daughter to all her sports and school events.

“He was Mr. Mom,” she said. “I don’t know how I would have made it without him.”

Sims also praises her sons Joseph, 28, Anthony 26, and Devon 24, stepson Stevie Jr., 18, and daughter Sakeriah, 14, for their support and encouragement throughout her law school experience. She hopes that there is a lesson to be learned in what she has accomplished.

Said Sims, “I wanted to lead by example and show my family that, although life is tough, you always have to work through difficult situations to make your dream a reality.”