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Community News
Education Plus Helps Dream Come True
Psychiatric News
Volume 40 Number 14 page 15-15

In May "Christine Jones" stood before a group of peers and staff from the Education Plus program to express her gratitude a week after receiving her associate's degree from the Community College of Philadelphia.

Education Plus is a supported-education program offering students with mental illness the academic and psychosocial support they need to reach their educational goals (see article above).

Without Education Plus, she acknowledged, "I'm not sure I could have graduated."

The confidence she gained through the program enabled her to go from" waking up and watching TV all day to earning good grades and acting in a play at college."

Jones, 46, told Psychiatric News that she entered college as a freshman at Drexel University in 1975.

High school had not been a good experience for her, she admitted. "I was depressed. After high school, I thought college would be the answer." Her depression worsened after she received a failing grade, and she began to withdraw from her classes before she eventually stopped taking classes altogether.

Jones, who has bipolar disorder, said that for years after she left school, she "lived an isolated life" and felt the world was an" untrustworthy place."

"I always had a vague desire to return to college, but the realization of that dream resided somewhere in the distant future," she said.

At the suggestion of her psychiatrist, Jones began taking classes at a community college a couple of years ago and registered with its Center on Disability, where she learned about Education Plus.

Gradually Jones noticed that her self-esteem improved, and she began to feel connected to those around her.

According to Jones, education specialist Sue Edwards, M.A.," constantly reminded me of my abilities when I could only see my disability." She also described Edwards as "a great sounding board not only about school-related issues but general life issues."

Of the Education Plus support group, Jones said, "I felt relaxed among people who were struggling with similar issues.... I was no longer isolated."

Jones now has plans to get her bachelor's degree in psychology at a school in the Philadelphia area. "I feel like I've lived this life of mine for a reason," she said. "A certain knowledge has been borne out of my experiences, and I can empathize with others in my situation. I want to be able to give back."

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