Jennifer Dixon had been out of school nearly 30 years when she decided to enroll in the Project LeeWay program at Lee College, intent on finishing the education she had started and abandoned so long ago.
“I had always put myself on the back burner,” said Dixon, a mother of two and one of 10 Project LeeWay students who completed the program this summer. “Now I know I don’t have to be afraid, no matter what obstacles I will cross on my path.”
Funded through a federal grant, Project LeeWay assists low-income adults in pursuing a college education by providing help with the costs of tuition, textbooks, childcare and transportation, among other resources. Students accepted into the program complete a 5-week session that allows them to earn Lee College credit while refreshing their reading, writing, math, social and study skills. They also learn about the 23 different technical career fields the college offers, and end the session registered and fully prepared for the next semester of classes.
“We all too often sell ourselves short,” Lee College Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown told the August 2014 Project LeeWay graduates at a ceremony recently held in the Student Center. “Dream big. There isn’t anything that you can dream, that you can’t achieve. This is just the beginning.”
Angela JohnLouis also urged her classmates to think of their graduation from Project LeeWay as the start of another journey. She found herself enrolled at Lee College by sheer, lucky coincidence, she said.
“Stay on course and believe in yourself,” JohnLouis said. “I’m confident we’re ready to face new challenges head-on.”
A “nervous wreck” when she came into Project LeeWay, graduate Marie Cook said the program far exceeded her expectations. LeeWay staff, instructors and her classmates formed a strong support system that calmed her fears and motivated her to succeed.
“The teachers were in our corner the whole way, and we learned so much from each other,” Cook said. “We worked as a team and helped pull each other through. We can do this. Don’t give up on yourselves.”
Project LeeWay alumna Hilda Garcia echoed the message of perseverance, telling the graduates how she survived domestic violence to complete the program. She later earned two associate degrees from Lee College, as well as bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from Lamar University.
“I started Project LeeWay while living in shelter for battered women,” Garcia said through tears. “Every time I showed up on campus, I knew I had to do it. I had to do it for my children. Project LeeWay was my stepping-stone. It was my open door.”
Orientations for the next Project LeeWay class begin Sept. 3, while the quick-start session begins Oct. 27. For more information, contact the Project LeeWay office at 281.425.6492 or 281.425.6559.