Mandy Lane knew the odds were against her when she enrolled at Virginia Highlands Community College.
As a foster care student, she knew that her chances of earning a college degree were less than 2 percent. According to statistics, she was far more likely to end up homeless or in jail.
But rather than get discouraged, Lane sought help through VHCC’s Great Expectations program. The one-on-one help she received through this program helped her stay motivated, she says, right up until graduation day.
“What really helped me the most was just having someone to tell me that I could do it,” she said. “That was reassuring to me. It made me want to work harder and do my best at everything.”
Lane entered foster care at the age of 15. She changed homes and high schools frequently, certain that college wasn’t a realistic option for her. Then she took a dual enrollment course in criminal justice at Abingdon High School and discovered her true passion in life.
Last May, she graduated from VHCC with an associate’s degree in police science. She recently got married and bought a house, too, and plans to begin work on a bachelor’s degree from Old Dominion next year.
“My plan is to become a juvenile probation officer,” she said. “I really want to make an impact on people while they are young. So many young people get in trouble just so they can get attention. I’d like to focus positive attention on them instead of negative attention all the time.”
Lane’s determination and positive attitude were key factors in her success, but she is quick to share credit with those she met through the Great Expectations program. She formed close friendships with other foster care students enrolled in the program, and had the opportunity to participate in cultural activities that helped broaden her outlook on life, she says.
“It doesn’t matter that you are in foster care,” she says. “People don’t judge you here. You don’t get looked at differently. They might give you a little extra help, but other than that, you’re like every other student.”
“What really helped me the most was just having someone tell me I could do it.”