Tulsa Community College said a program it is offering to help unemployed Oklahomans get started again will be available for another five years.
This comes just days before federal unemployment benefits expire in the event of a pandemic.
Things didn’t look very promising on paper for Michelle Lozano who said she spent most of her life in survival mode. Lozano dropped out of school in 2010, but re-enrolled at Tulsa Community College two years later after learning she was pregnant.
“Juggling a brand new baby, school and the bills and all the things that come with life, I just couldn’t do it,” said Lozano, a former TRiO client.
After dropping out a second time, Lozano was convinced that she just wasn’t made for college.
“I had tried and failed so many times and by that time I had three jobs. I was living alone with my son and just trying to make a living,” Lozano said.
However, in 2019, Lozano founded the TRiO Educational Opportunity Center, a free TCC program funded by the US Department of Education.
Program director John Thao said it targets first-generation and low-income adults, but fills an even greater need.
“I believe this is one of the hidden gems in Tulsa that people aren’t well aware of,” Thao said.
“We certainly understand the impact and importance of having a college degree, not only financially, but also the life experiences that accompany graduation for low-income, first-generation people.”
TRiO helps people get their GED by providing tutoring online and covering the cost of testing. Program counselors help clients navigate the financial and college aid application process. It aims to teach clients financial literacy.
There are mentoring and job shadowing opportunities through community partnerships, and they help clients find the right contacts for affordable housing, medical support, and child care.
“They basically brought all of these resources into one room and one space,” Lozano said.
With all of these resources, Lozano is expected to graduate from Southern Nazarene University in 2023.
“That’s the advantage of our program, is that we don’t recruit for CBT. In fact, we help individuals go to any school they want to go to,” Thao said.
Lozano said she is now engaged and building a better life for her nine-year-old son.
“Between all of us or how we say in Spanish ‘entre todos’,” said Lozano. “We can do it.”
For more information on TRiO, click here.