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Degree or certificate program at CLC: A.A., plans to graduate in spring 2017.

Major: Social work.

Transfer school, degree and year: Northeastern Illinois University; plans to earn a B.A. in social work.

Hometown: Zion, Ill.

High school: Earned a GED at CLC in 2013.

Hobbies and Interests: Writing; spending time with my four teenage children.

Maria Lawrence

At CLC, I have found in myself strength that I never knew I had. I’m showing my kids that it’s not the mistakes that you make in life that are important; it’s how you learn from those mistakes.

I grew up in a crime-filled neighborhood, and left high school at 17. I worked for years in low-skilled warehouse and assembly jobs while raising four kids by myself. Eventually, I thought there must be a better life. So, at age 32, I enrolled in CLC’s GED program. I am now a CLC student majoring in sociology, and my confidence level has skyrocketed.

The instructors in the GED program were wonderful and so patient. They encouraged me to visit the Writing Center and math tutors. At first, I was embarrassed to see math tutors because I was scared of the subject and did multiplication on my fingers. But I decided to see a math tutor every day, and the repetition paid off. Today, I love math.

At the GED graduation ceremony in 2014, my mom and kids were in the audience, and when I walked up to receive my diploma, it was an overwhelming, I-can’t-believe-it experience. I felt that God was giving me a second chance, and I had tears in my eyes.

When I first enrolled as a non-traditional CLC student, I thought “Oh, my gosh. There’ll be nobody here but the 18-22 crowd.” But soon, I saw many ages in my classes. We all fit in at CLC because age doesn’t matter here.

After earning my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, I’d love to work for a county agency as a social worker because my passion is to use my own life experience to help others. I’d like to show how it’s never too late to start anew, and I’m happy to be living the dream at age 36.

The CLC professors have been excellent and so supportive. When I started the college-level courses, I didn’t know how to take notes. But after taking a class, Becoming a Successful College Student, and earning an A, I’ve been succeeding ever since. In an English Composition class, the professor had a passion for teaching and directed the class to write memoirs. She showed us how to introduce a story and use a descriptive memory of a smell or taste to grab the reader’s attention. I love writing now, and I want to write my own story.

The staff in CLC’s Women’s Center have been wonderful, too. I can talk to the staff about anything, and I won’t be judged. It’s really amazing to see the different services that CLC has.