"Change was coming," she says. "I was going to do my part."
One of his summer classes focused on personal development. It broadened Joe's thinking and boosted his confidence. It taught him, he says, to be a creator instead of a victim.
At the end of the class, each student had to say something about the others.
"Joe, you are really awesome," wrote one. "I admire that you never gave up on your dreams and decided to go to college."
He finished his summer classes with a 4.0 average, and the college rewarded him with an $800 bonus. He waited for it to show up in his bank account before buying pens, notebooks, glue sticks and other school supplies for Sydney and Logan.
Joe signed up for classes this fall, paid for by a Pell Grant, a federal need-based financial assistance program that Obama wants to increase and Romney wants to cut. That's a sticking point for Joe. If Romney says he would completely eliminate Pell Grants, Joe might find it hard to check his name come November.
"My education right now is what is keeping me going," he says.
His long-term plan: After two years at the community college, transfer to the University of Nevada-Reno and earn a degree in environmental engineering. He'd like to work in renewable energy, make use of Nevada sunshine to produce abundant solar power.
"Joe -- he's always had big dreams," Becky says. "I think now, with a college degree, he'll be able to realize them."
On Sunday, the day before school starts, the kids are out, and the house is quiet, the party of the previous day behind them and no hint of the hubbub to come. Joe sits at the dining table messing with his shiny new possession.
For his birthday on August 22, the family gave him a Hewlett-Packard laptop. It's the first computer they've bought in 10 years. They wanted him to start college with the proper tools.
One of the first things he checked out was a Romney website.
"I like his plan for work requirements for welfare," Joe says. "That was a Bill Clinton thing."
Joe has ideas on how to put welfare recipients to work. Moms could work at their kids' schools, help with tutoring or in the lunchroom or coach sports. That would help them gain confidence, he says.
He gets up from the table and moves closer to the television when there's news of a new job report. Nevada still has the nation's highest unemployment rate: 12%.
"That's why he's been here so many times," he says of Obama.
Joe worries that if Obama is re-elected, America will stay on the same gloomy economic track. He wants to know more about Romney's five-point plan. It includes balancing the federal budget and cutting health-care costs. But Joe's not sure how Romney will create jobs. He hasn't heard Romney lay it all out.
"I'd really like to hear him speak about Nevada," he says. "Not because I live in this state but because they need to start with the worst."
Logan flies into the house with his friend Mike, who's just moved in next door from China. They have white T-shirts over their heads. Joe shakes his head at their silliness.
Ry is back at work, making sandwiches behind the deli counter at Raley's.
And Sydney is at church.
Neither Becky nor Joe is a fan of organized religion. They prefer the Native American way of thinking that a higher power manifests itself through the sun, moon and stars. But when Sydney approached them recently about attending a Baptist church with friends, they were not opposed. Becky thought church would help Sydney fit in, keep her grounded the way Becky never was at that difficult age.
Some faith-based positions bother the Stoltzes. Becky was undecided until Romney named Paul Ryan as his running mate and she researched his conservative social beliefs. Joe says he'll listen intently when Obama and Romney debate -- and not just to their views on the economy.
He's a firm supporter of abortion rights. It's a woman's choice, he says. No conditions attached. But he could overlook the GOP position on abortion if Romney offered a strong economic plan.
Another problem is the Republican view on immigration policy. This land was built by immigrants, Joe says. Why would we close our doors now? He's sure he will hear more about that issue in the debates.