From Homeless to Harvard – Liz Murray’s Story

A few people are born resilient. Elizabeth Murray is one of them. Her parents were cocaine addicts who spent most of the family’s money on feeding their habits. Liz explains that as a result, she and her sister were neglected. The girls often lacked food and warm clothes. By age 15, Liz was homeless. Continue reading “From Homeless to Harvard – Liz Murray’s Story”

Facing Racism Made Me Better, Not Bitter

Jackie Leno Grant spent her early years in a comfortable world, surrounded by family and friends. Moving to another town changed all that. As a Native American in a nearly all-white school in rural western Oregon, Jackie felt out of place. Her unfair treatment at school could have made her bitter and rebellious, but Jackie refused to let bitterness rule her life, followed through with her goals, and graduated college. Here is her story:

During the seventh grade, Jackie became aware of the racism around her. "It usually wasn’t on the surface. But I became aware of people looking at me strangely, whispering about my family, expecting me to do something wrong," she says. "my parents were out of their element in Tillamook, too. They didn’t make friends. There were no visitors in and out of the house."

Jackie’s sense of loss was magnified when her beloved grandmother died. An important link to the loving, accepting world of her childhood was gone. At about the same time, Jackie’s mother took a graveyard shift job at a local mill. Jackie found herself getting less attention at home.

During the next couple of years at school, Jackie recalls, "I completely lost my bearings. School was a joke. My teachers didn’t seem to care, and I cared less. I only went to the classes where I didn’t feel humiliated, like choir and writing class."

Trying to connect with someone who might help, Jackie visited the guidance counselor and asked for information on trade schools. But the counselor stared at her and said, "School isn’t for you. You’re just going to get married and have a bunch of kids." The counselor’s words devastated Jackie. "I’d been raised by people who had always told me, ‘You can do whatever you want to do.’ This was the first time I was told outright that I should not expect much out of life."

After that point, she says, "I hung out with my friends, smoked cigarettes, skipped school, and experimented with drugs."

Soon matters got even worse. One day, Jackie and some friends went to the local Dairy Queen for lunch and decided not to return to school. The next day they were called into the vice-principal’s office. According to school policy, students caught skipping school for the first time were warned. The second time, they were suspended for three days. Jackie and her friends had never been caught before. The other kids in the group, who were all white, received the expected warning. Jackie was told to leave school and never come back.

"I asked my mom to call the school and see why I wasn’t treated like the other kids," says Jackie. "But she wouldn’t. I know she was worried about my behavior, but I also think it was because she didn’t feel she was a part of that community. She didn’t know how to assert herself there." Instead, Jackie’s mother took her to see a juvenile counselor, saying, "I don’t know what my daughter’s doing. I can’t control her."

"So," Jackie says, "I was made a ward of the court and sent to a reform school in Portland."

At the school, Jackie was housed in a cottage with fifteen other girls. "I was searched. My luggage was searched. We were locked in our rooms at night. There were bars on the windows. Alarms sounded if someone left the campus. Newcomers weren’t allowed visitors for a month because we were considered runaway risks during that time."

Despite the institutional feel of the place, Jackie learned to like the school, where she found the housemothers and teachers "nice and caring." "I did a lot of observing and thinking there," she says. "As I watched the other girls, I realized that I had more good things in my life than most of them had. I had a sense of myself and where I came from. Although we hadn’t always gotten along, I had people who loved me and had tried their best to take care of me. It was obvious at mail call time and visitors’ day that many of the other girls had no one who cared at all."

Jackie began to think that she had arrived at the juvenile home for a reason. A surprising visitor convinced her that she was right. "The housemother called to say someone wanted to see me," says Jackie. "I walked out to see an ancient woman standing there. She said, ‘You’re Jacqueline Leno.’ Then she looked at me for a long time and seemed so pleased. Finally, she stated, ‘I knew your mother very well.’ I was surprised. ‘How do you know her?’ I asked. She answered, ‘This is the place where you were born.’"

Jackie’s elderly visitor went on to explain that, years before, the school had been a home for unwed mothers. It was to this home that Jackie’s mother had gone as a confused, pregnant, 15-year-old. The old woman, who had been an employee of the home, had taken a special interest in Jackie’s young mother. "She spoke very fondly of my mom. Although she had retired years ago, she came back just to see me."

Learning that she had returned to the place of her birth filled Jackie with a sense of peace and purpose. "I knew I was completing a circle in my life, and I felt sure that things were falling into place for all the right reasons."

Jackie did well at the school, both academically and socially. After she had been there several months, a counselor called Jackie into her office. The counselor said, "Jackie, I just don’t understand."

Jackie had wondered if she had somehow managed to get into trouble. "What is it?" she asked.

"You study hard," the counselor said. "You don’t lose you temper. You never get into fights. You don’t run away. Why are you here?"

"I skipped school," Jackie answered.

Within days, the counselor and teachers had come up with a plan for Jackie. The school’s principal and English teacher had recently gotten married. The couple, Curt and Karen Prickett, volunteered to be Jackie’s foster parents. She moved into their home, but continued to attend classes at the school. During her senior year, the Pricketts helped Jackie land a half-time job at the immigration service office in Portland.

"I couldn’t have asked for better parents," Jackie says. "We had a terrific relationship. They let me use their extra car to go home and see my parents on weekends. They helped me develop my social skills. They loved to give parties, and they would tell me my job at the party was to ‘mingle.’ I did a lot of growing up living with them."

After graduating, Jackie moved back to Tillamook and worked as a waitress. "It was a very happy time of my life," she recalls. "I found that a lot of people in Tillamook remembered me. Some knew me just as ‘that girl who got railroaded out of town.’ But others remembered me for more positive things. I saw that I had more support in that town than I had realized. My own withdrawal had cut me off from people who would have helped me."

While working at the restaurant, Jackie met Steve Grant, a young man who was supporting himself as a carpenter as he worked his way through college. The two began dating. "Steve recognized in me abilities and drive that no one else had ever seen," she says. "He became my mentor, encouraging me to try college classes."

Hesitantly, Jackie enrolled for a summer term at a community college. Her placement-test scores were "horrible" in most areas. "I needed every remedial class that the college offered. But I wasn’t at all discouraged by that," she explains. "As I look at it, I hadn’t failed. I simply hadn’t prepared adequately for college work, and now I was doing something about that."

Jackie continued taking classes until the school’s Native American counselor approached her one day. He had observed her love for learning and encouraged her to enroll in a four-year college. "You’re not sure what you want to do with your life, and a four-year degree will offer you many more choices." he told her. Jackie decided to trust his advice, and she and Steve both enrolled at Eastern Oregon State College, in LaGrande.

At the end of her first year at Eastern, Steve graduated with his bachelor’s degree. The two felt the time was right to marry and begin a family, so Jackie left school. But eight years and three children later, Jackie decided to go back to college. She re-enrolled at Eastern Oregon and went to school for three solid years, including summers. She also held a part-time job in the school’s Native American program.

After she earned her degree in psychology in 1989, Jackie became director of Eastern Oregon’s Native American program. In that position, she advises the school’s Native American and Native Alaskan students, teaching them to reach out and get the help they need from the educational system. She, Steve, and their children–Neesha, Joaquin, and Jack–open their home to the students she advised, often hosting potluck dinners.

Jackie Grant’s ancestors walked a "Trail of Tears." While Jackie’s trail has had it’s own rough spots, her strong pride in her Native American heritage and the early lessons of her parents and grandparents have led her to achieve her personal goals. "They taught me that true satisfaction lies in doing your best, working your hardest, and reaching for the goals that you yourself have set, not those that anyone else has set for you," states Jackie. "I believed them when they told me that I could do whatever I wanted."

Adapted with permission from Everyday Heros, by Beth Johnson.

Everyday Heros tells the inspiring stories of 20 men and women who have faced and overcome serious challenges in their lives. ISBN: 0-944210-26-0. Purchase a used copy of Everyday Heros from

Succeeding Despite Invisible Handicaps

(Comment by Al Siebert: This letter from a college student with mental problems that I counseled is a useful reminder to instructors that some students have invisible handicaps that they may not reveal. "Gil’s" letter also shows that some "challenged" students show amazing resourcefulness and courage in their determination to succeed. Here is his letter…) Continue reading “Succeeding Despite Invisible Handicaps”

Angry Mothers on Welfare Must Fight for Education Funding

Diana Spatz was a single mother on welfare. She encountered many barriers when she tried to get an education to become self-sufficient, but she found ways to overcome them. She now works to help other parents on welfare gain access to funding that is available for their education. Diana says: Continue reading “Angry Mothers on Welfare Must Fight for Education Funding”

Make Friends with Your Instructors

To make the most of your learning experience, and to get the best grades possible, it is good to form a positive relationship with each of your instructors. In some cases this is easy to do: you are dazzled by the instructor’s knowledge, make opportunities to ask questions, and find encouragement to share your views. A mentor helps you make contacts in your field of interest, and coaches you in your early efforts. Continue reading “Make Friends with Your Instructors”

Adult Student Guide Sections

Here are the online sections referred to specifically in The Adult Student’s Guide. For more information, see the book!

Financial Aid Resources

— (Page 25). You’re not a traditional student, so chances are, you may not have access to some o...

Financial FAQs

FAQs compiled by Kristin Pintarich Editor-in-Chief, Practical Psychology Press @import url(;...
Distance Learning

Distance Learning

— (Page 46). Several articles and links to useful sites with information on online learning op...

Enrolling and Getting Registered

— (Chapter 3). If you want to get a college degree from a four-year college or university, you...

Support Services

— (Page 31). Make sure to become familiar with the variety of support services available on campus....

Help for those with Learning or Physical Disabilities

— (Pages 11, 55). A list of links and resources for college students with learning or physical...

Classroom Listening

— (Page 37). Huh? What'd you just say? The two main goals of listening in a classroom are to...

Guidelines for Taking Notes

— (Page 38). Taking good notes is essential for succeeding in your college courses. Here are some...

Help for Sustaining Concentration

— (Page 61). There are several reasons why adults have trouble concentrating for any length of...

Developing Goals

— (Pages 39, 117). If you feel overwhelmed by the tasks ahead of you—and even if not—read...

Authenticating Resources on the Internet

— (Pages 46, 82). Help in determining what is reliable and what is not when it comes to using resources...

Emoticons, Emojis, Chat Abbreviations and Avatars

— (Page 46). Hey, what do all those symbols and abbreviations mean??

Bloom's Taxonomy

— (Page 76). Many students don't understand the difference between "C", "B"...

Understanding Differences in Temperament

— (Page 96). Knowing your temperament and that of your instructors can go a long way towards having...

Your Accomplishments Portfolio

— (Page 8). The traditional portfolio was used by artists, photographers, and architects to demonstrate...

Adult Student Links

Here are all the links from The Adult Student’s Guide to Survival and Success, 7th Edition, plus, some new and updated links. Please note — does not take any responsibility for the information presented on any of the outside sites we link to. The links are provided as a courtesy to our visitors.

Adult Student Resources


General College Resources

Financial Aid Resources

Learning Disability / Resources for Persons with Disabilities

Alternative contact information for most of these resources is available on our Help for those with Learning or Physical Disabilities page.

Distance Learning Resources


Basic Job Resources / Career Search

Miscellaneous / Family Support / Study Skills

Reference Resources

Consumer References

Provided as a courtesy to adult students who, like all students, usually have little money to spare!


Search Engines and Directories

A random list of search engines beyond Google! Review our own internet searching help tips

Help for those with Learning or Physical Disabilities

— (Pages 11, 55). A list of links and resources for college students with learning or physical disabilities.

Personal Experiences:

Dare Take Risks! A personal narrative on using your physical limitations to find your purpose in life by Stephen Hopson. Essay also appears in Chicken Soup for the College Soul.

Succeeding Despite Invisible Handicaps – “Gil Meyers” story – a first person experience from someone with a learning disability.

Tips for Students on Medications – Hints compiled by recent adult student Kate Stephens.

Disabled Student Resources Online

Visit the Resources for Persons with Learning or Physical Disabilities section of our links page. Below are some of the resources that have alternative contact information:

Attention Deficit Disorder Association
Site is full of great stuff, specifically, search on  “College Tips.”
15000 Commerce Parkway, Suite C
Mount Laurel, NJ 08054
Phone: 856-439-9099 (toll call to New Jersey).

US Government Disability info (US Department of Labor):
Current Federal iteration of its public information site.

Learning Disabilities WorldWideEnriching the lives of individuals with learning disabilities around the world
Landmark College
79 Bear Hill Road Suite 104
Waltham, MA 02451

Landmark College – The college of choice for students who learn differently
19 River Road South
Putney, VT 05346

Job Accommodation Network – Ask JAN
PO Box 6080
Morgantown, WV 26506-6080
(800)526-7234 (V)
(877)781-9403 (TTY)

Program for Advancement of Learning from Curry College (PAL):
“The nation’s premier support program for college students with learning disabilities.”
PAL Program
Curry College
1071 Blue Hill Avenue
Milton, MA 02186
617-333-0500 (Toll call to Massachusetts)

LD Online Technology Resources:
A ton of resources. Also use their search box and enter the term “college.” Sponsored through WETA Public Television of Washington, DC.
LD OnLine
WETA Public Television
2775 S. Quincy St.
Arlington, VA 22206
703-998-2600 (Toll call to Virginia)

Learning Differences:
Provided by the Richard Cooper and the Center for Alternative Learning. Check under “Learning Tools” for some good memory hints and articles.
6 E. Eagle Rd.
Havertown, PA 19083
610-446-6126 (Toll call to Pennsylvania)
800-869-8336 (toll free)

National Association for Adults with Special Learning Needs: “an e-community that offers members a centralized hub of information, professional development, technical assistance, communication on issues and trends, and advocacy initiatives on behalf of adults with special learning needs.”
c/o KOC Member Services
1143 Tidewater Court
Westerville, OH 43082
Toll free: 888-5-NAASLN (888-562-2756)

National Center for Learning Disabilities
Life with LD: Navigating the Transition to College
381 Park Avenue South Suite 1401
New York, NY 10016
212-545-7510 (Toll call to New York)
or, toll-free: 888-575-7373

National Center on Workforce and Disability –
National Center on Workforce and Disability
UMass Boston
100 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125

Older Sites / Archives:
Literacy and Learning Disabilities Archive
National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy Archive
Resources for Adults with Disabilities (PDF, 2004) produced by: A publication of the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities as viewed via the WayBack Machine

updated: 09/09/19