“I remember having to buy a particular book which was $175,” Lisa says. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, how am I going to pay for this?’ I was just trying to survive financially from one semester to another. My goal was to take each semester as it came.”
“The Foundation grant helped to alleviate a lot of the burden I would have had to endure if I had not been a recipient. Also, the LRAF grants were not about just helping me pay for my education. When I received these grants I felt like someone else was on my side. Someone else saw my potential and said, ‘Yes, we think you can do it too. We want you to succeed and this is how we can help.’ It was the validation I needed to believe I could achieve.”
As a child, Lisa did not have a lot of encouragement. She grew up in an abusive family setting; for Lisa there are no happy childhood memories. Books and reading were her only escape and her only dream was to seek a college education after graduating high school. But this was not to be and Lisa ended up in a brief marriage with a child and a series of unproductive jobs in the accounting field.
“I remember thinking, there has to be more to life than this,” recalls Lisa, “I had to do something to change my life for me and my daughter Ellen.” She choose a path that reflects her troubled childhood and her passion to help others; in 2005 she enrolled in Gloucester County College to study psychology. That’s where help from the LRAF and others changed her life forever. “I remember feeling liberated,” recounts Lisa, “I could envision a better life for Ellen and me.” Her years at GCC were marked by significant recognition and achievement; most notably the ALL-USA Academic – 1st Team, NJ New Century Scholar and a long list of prestigious academic and community service awards.
Despite her accomplishments, life for this single working mother is not without daily challenges. Lisa was born with cataracts and is legally blind; she currently can drive during daylight, but any worsening of her condition will result in the permanent loss of her license.
A routine health check-up in July 2007 ended in a hospital stay and diagnosis of diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol. Confronted with sizable medical bills – and no health insurance and fear for her life – and concern for her daughter Ellen, Lisa fought back. And she won! She’s been medicine free since February and to date has lost 132 pounds! “I no longer use food to cope with life,” Lisa explains, “I use exercise or meditation as substitutes.” All the diagnoses have changed or completely disappeared.
In May 2009, Lisa will graduate with honors from Rutgers University with a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology and a 3.95 GPA.