I loved your story..very inspiring. I am currently attending online school for a Bachelors in IT with a concentration in Software Applications Development using *sighs*- Java.
My first course involved programming a Java swing GUI to allow a user to essentially order a fictitious product and enter payment/billing information. I had very little experience programming preceding this. Mostly "Hello World" type stuff in python. Shortly after writing the Java Swing program, I submitted the code along with with my current resume to a company I found that was hiring for Perl programmers- and I'm still doing it after 6 months.
Update: my java program and other things can be found here: www.github.com/dculver1986