Tulsa Community College said a program it offers, that helps unemployed Oklahomans and Oklahomans without a higher education start over, will be around for another five years.
This comes just days before the pandemic federal unemployment benefits are set to expire.
Things didn't seem too promising on paper for Michelle Lozano who said she's spent most of her life in survival mode. Lozano dropped out of college in 2010 but reenrolled at Tulsa Community College two years later after learning she was pregnant.
"Juggling you know a brand-new baby and school and bills and all of the things that come with life, I just, I couldn't do it," said Lozano, a former TRiO client.
After dropping out a second time, Lozano was convinced she just wasn't cut out for college.
"I had tried and failed so many times and at that point I was working three jobs. I was living by myself with my son, and I was just trying to live," said Lozano.
However, in 2019, Lozano found the TRiO Educational Opportunity Center which is a free program at TCC that is funded through the US Department of Education.
Program Director John Thao said it's aimed at first generation and lower income adults but meets an even greater need.
"I believe this is one of Tulsa's hidden gems that people are not well aware of," said Thao.
"We definitely understand the impact and the significance of having a college degree, not only financially but the life experiences that comes with having a degree for individuals who are low income, first generation."
TRiO helps folks earn their GED by providing online tutoring and covering test fees. Program counselors help clients navigate the college and financial aid application process. It works to teach clients financial literacy.
There are opportunities for mentoring and job shadowing through community partnerships, and they help clients find the right contacts for affordable housing, medical support, and childcare.
"They essentially brought all these resources into one room and one space," said Lozano.
Thanks to all those resources, Lozano is expected to graduate with a bachelor's degree from Southern Nazarene University in 2023.
"That's the great thing about our program is we don't recruit for TCC. We actually help individuals go to any school they want to go to," said Thao.
Lozano said she is now happily engaged and building a better life for her nine-year-old son.
"In-between all of us or how we say in Spanish, 'entre todos,'" said Lozano. "We can do it."
For more information about TRiO, click here.