The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Program gets homeless back in school

By Mona Lisa Tucker/south news editor

Almost two years ago, South student Ladoris Pope was in a local homeless shelter ready to pack up and give up because she couldn’t find a job, she said.

Fortunately for her, assistant psychology professor Tina Jenkins and now-retired counselor Annie Dobbins came and told her and other shelter residents about the Visions Unlimited program, which helps homeless people rebuild their lives through college classes.

Although Pope had not been in college for more than 20 years and was in default with financial aid and loans, she accepted the program’s challenge.

“When they came in, that was a new lease on life,” Pope said. “I escaped having someone’s foot on me. I escaped falling into a system of learned helplessness because there is nothing done to help transition you back into society.”

Jenkins and Dobbins helped Pope regain her financial aid, allowing her to re-enter college and receive her associate degree in one year, she said. 

Pope will soon transfer to Texas Wesleyan to pursue her bachelor’s degree in education. She also wants to open a shelter, she said.

“Since becoming a part of the program, my daughter is determined to go to college, and it allows me the opportunity to really be an example to her,” Pope said.

South student Wallace Akins heard about the program through a mutual friend who had gone through it, he said. Before then, he didn’t have the opportunity and thought it was too hard to get in college, but he learned the meaning of networking as he navigated the program, he said.

“How I got here wasn’t what I thought it should be,” he said.

Akins was married and doing well as a shift manager at a restaurant in Memphis, Tenn. When his

marriage dissolved, he came back to Fort Worth with almost nothing and ended up in a shelter, he said.

He appreciates Jenkins and Dobbins because they knew exactly what he needed upon his arrival at South.

“My vision was blurry. It was there, but, once I got here, my eyes were more open, and the scales came off my eyes,” he said.

Academic advisor Carl Scherrieb said the premise of Visions Unlimited is to transition individuals back into readiness training and a school setting for eventual re-employment and independent living, he said.

Some other things the group works on are self-help techniques, independence, career exploration and connection with additional community resources through speakers and outside programs, he said.

“It’s a program that our chancellor is very passionate about,” Jenkins said.

Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley and a team of people from South started Visions Unlimited  four years ago, Jenkins said. It’s modeled after a similar program at El Paso Community College.

Hadley has helped students to have the college experience by insisting that the courses be taught on campus, Jenkins said.

“She was very deliberate in wanting the students to come to campus,” Jenkins said.

Students begin their journey with two classes taught by Jenkins: psychology of adjustment and applied psychology.

The classes aim “to help the student overcome some of the things that may have been holding them back in the past,” she said.

They have external partners that assist with the program such as the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, The T bus line and ECI catering on South.

Also, the Fort Worth Housing program gave Jenkins a number of housing vouchers for students who reach certain benchmarks in their education, she said.

“It’s only for the Visions program, and there are definite criteria that has to be met,” she said.

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