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San Diego Promise Makes College Dream Come True For Working Mom

Above: San Diego City College April 11, 2017.

A pilot program from the San Diego Community College District gives students a jump start on life. District leaders say this is not just free tuition at work, but a network of support that gives people who do not have the means to pay for higher education a chance to go to college.

Romelia Turner is taking on a new workload to fulfill a promise to herself. She is back in school, nearly 30 years after dropping out.

“When I had my son, I didn’t want to go back to college because I was a little embarrassed,” Turner said. “But I did go to Bay Vista Beauty College.”

Turner built a career in cosmetology and supported her son and daughter, until cancer entered her life. She said a doctor diagnosed her with breast cancer in 2013. A few years later, it was time for Turner to care for her sick mother, who had carcinoid tumors.

“When I decided to go back to work, it was hard because I didn’t have a high school diploma,” said Turner.

Turner enrolled in San Diego Continuing Education.

“I didn’t want a GED (certificate). I wanted a high school diploma,” Turner said.

Turner completed the accelerated program last year.

“I just knocked them down one by one, so here I am at college,” she said.

She says finally earning her high school diploma gave her the confidence to achieve even more.

“To be able to walk across the stage and have my mom sitting there and my kids, and my family it was awesome,” said Turner.

Now, Turner is striving for an associate’s degree at San Diego City College, with the help of a San Diego Community College District program that offers financial support and a network of resources aimed at giving deserving students a chance to go to college.

Program Qualifications

–Program participants are required to be enrolled in at least 12 units for both fall and spring.

–Participate in eight hours of community service.

–And maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0.

She was one of 186 students selected for the San Diego Promise pilot program, which covered school fees and offered book grants to qualifying students.

Lynn Neault, vice chancellor of student services for the San Diego Community College District, said this is the district’s response to President Barack Obama’s national campaign to make community college free.

“If you look at the circumstances that they’re coming from, it’s really a choice between survival and food and going to college,” Neault said.

San Diego Unified School District selected the participants. More than 1,100 applied for the next San Diego Promise program, covering the 2017-2018 school year. There is funding for 600 new San Diego Promise students.

“When you receive the calls: ‘Why didn’t I get this?’ ‘Why didn’t I get selected?’ ‘If I don’t get this then I can’t go to college,’ than you realize it is providing individuals hope,” Neault said. “Hope for a future.”

Turner said she hopes to build a new career in psychology.

“Education will take you so far in life and it will give you so much confidence in who you are,” said Turner.

San Diego City College District has a 65 percent retention rate. So far, San Diego Promise has a 90 percent retention rate.

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