Early in 2015, I applied for assistance in job hunting from Vocational Rehabilitation. By the time my plan was officially approved, I’d already been hired in my current job, but they retroactively paid for Joan, the employment specialist who had helped me. Hank, the Vocational Rehab counselor, was available to help with additional problems. A few months into the job, I was considered stably employed and my case was closed.
When the idea of returning to college started to become more than an idea, I e-mailed Hank to ask if there was anything Vocational Rehab could do to help. I was mostly thinking of advice – helping find services on campus and the like. I started school in August before I was able to meet with Hank, then we had to go through the lengthy process of writing a new plan for his supervisor’s approval.
In our final meeting to finish up the plan, Hank read to me the expectations of Vocational Rehab that I would have to meet. One of them was to attend school full-time. He didn’t notice, but I started crying. I was about to tell him that I was wasting his time, and get up and walk out. There was no way I could register for more than two courses for Spring and he was asking for four. As I opened my mouth to excuse myself from his office, he mentioned that due to the nature of my disability and the fact that I also work, he could modify that requirement.
My state of panic subsided, and by the end of the appointment it was a state of shock and elation. I’d been hoping for advice and encouragement, and expected that if there was any financial assistance involved it would be, at most, some help with textbook fees. Hank gave me some conditions I would have to follow, such as maintaining at least a 2.0 GPA and following the university’s code of conduct. Beyond that, my major responsibility was to file the FAFSA each year and accept any grants and scholarships that were offered.
With those conditions met, Vocational Rehab would pay the remainder of tuition and fees, textbooks, transportation (including the on-campus parking pass), and a commuter meal plan to cover the days I have to be on campus. After follow-up with Hank, we have established that they don’t need to consider the parking pass until the start of Fall 2017 as my current pass runs through the end of Summer sessions. We also will not be doing the meal plan as my scheduled classes are online for next semester, but it will remain in my plan in case it’s necessary when I take on-campus classes in the future.
That was the day I knew I would graduate. I had taken a huge leap of faith by applying and enrolling in college when I didn’t have a reliable source of money to get through it all. With every exam I take and paper I submit, I remember Vocational Rehab and am overwhelmed by gratitude all over again.