ARC Mom: from illiteracy to honors

Tammy Linn, 36, is now enrolled in honors courses at American River College after learning to read only ten years ago. (Photo by Emily K. Rabasto)

If you looked up the word tenacity in the dictionary, you just might find a picture of a petite 36-year-old blonde named Tammy Lynn.

Despite insurmountable obstacles, Lynn progressed from an emergent literate to honors student with the help of the student support services available in the Learning Resource Center only to find her educational goals in jeopardy due to credit limits on financial aid.

Lynn will tell you she comes from a “rough, rough childhood,” but that hasn’t stopped her in the quest for an education.

Raised by a widowed teen mother incapable of providing support, she lacked a good educational foundation and dropped out of middle school.

“I never set foot in a high school,” Lynn said.

At 26, Lynn was a struggling mother of three children and unable to keep her life on track. But hitting bottom led her on a path that would take her to the top.

“I got (a) bible and I just started reading it,” she said.  “I didn’t understand what I was reading whatsoever. I could pronounce the words, but I couldn’t comprehend them. I just went over and over it.”

This was the first time Lynn had truly tried to read anything in years and that spark lit a fire that could not be extinguished. A year after picking up that bible she decided to go back to school, enrolling in a high school program at an independent study public charter school.

Soon after, state budget cuts made it necessary for such schools to release all of their adult students. This was a heavy blow for Lynn, but she didn’t relent. Instead, she enrolled at ARC beginning with Math 25.

“I had to learn how to add and subtract and just write a basic sentence. I started at the very beginning,” she said. “I got an A in that first Math class.”

Quickly Lynn discovered she needed a GED to qualify for financial aid.

“I couldn’t afford to keep going,” she said.  ”I couldn’t afford the gas and the books. Once again, I took a blow to my education.”

While on a hiatus from school, in September of 2005 Lynn had open heart surgery to correct a congenital heart defect.

Undeterred and unfettered from her disability, Lynn signed up for GED readiness classes while still recovering from surgery.  Although she struggled through the practice tests, she passed the GED examination by the “skin of her teeth.”

Lynn wanted to continue her education and in May 2008 she came back to ARC and has been working toward a degree ever since.

Unfortunately she is now having trouble paying for the remainder of her education, and no longer has access to the resources that helped her to this point.

Because Lynn’s skills were so rudimentary she took several introductory classes and took full advantage of Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC), Reading Across the Disciplines (RAD), and Beacon Tutoring.

Until this semester a student could theoretically take WAC, a 0.5 credit class designed to assist students with academic writing, every semester.  RAD, another 0.5 credit class designed to be taken in conjunction with a class a student needs help with was also a repeatable class. Lynn will not have the unlimited access to those valuable resources that she once had.

“I needed that help to get me through,” Lynn said. “Without that, I couldn’t have made it through some of those classes.”

Because all of the WAC, RAD, and remedial math and English classes she needed to get started on her degree, Lynn has chipped away at the maximum credits allowed for financial aid. Lynn is now making significant sacrifices – selling prized family heirlooms – to pay for the remaining 24 credits she needs to transfer to the Social Work program at Sacramento State.

“I want to be a social worker,” she said.  “I still remember my social worker. She cared, you know?  Maybe I can make a difference.”

Lynn is not giving up. At 36, she is now a member of Phi Theta Kappa, ARC’s Honors Program and is very close to graduating.

“I was (so) embarrassed that I was such a struggling student that I kept it to myself. I got F’s even all through elementary school. I never got through anything. I just never had any kind of educational support ever, “Lynn said. “Now, to be (a member of) PTK honors society…it’s amazing!”

“It’s just recently that I realized that it is kind of awesome.“

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