Gifts in Action
The Patricia Tefft Cousin Scholarship
Made possible by The Tefft Family and friends of the familyThrough the generous support of many family members and friends of the Tefft family, the Patricia Tefft Cousin Scholarship was established in memory of faculty member Patricia Tefft Cousin. IU School of Education-IUPUI graduate Patricia Van Lue shares her personal journey as a recipient of this scholarship.
The pathway to a college degree is rarely straight. Negotiating the lifestyle,the finances, and the mental and physical demands is a problem common forany members of a higher education student body.
For some, the hardest battle is just getting there. Trish Van Lue's road tocollege itself was blocked for more than 20 years. Always one of her goals,college was simply out of reach for a long time because of everything else inher life.
I never thought I would be here," Van Lue said. "I never thought I would have the opportunity. Nobody in my family has ever graduated from college.
Van Lue did more than simply earn her degree. She graduated as amember of the Dean's List. She earned the Patricia Tefft CousinScholarship, named for the late IUPUI faculty member Patricia Tefft Cousinand given to "an outstandingundergraduate student majoring in elementary education with ademonstrated interest in special education, literacy or early childhood." VanLue was also an IU School of Education's Chancellor's Scholar. As shefinished her degree, her daughter completed her first semester at IUPUI.Just as it is a new beginning for Van Lue, it is the ending of a long and quitewinding road.
"I've been on my own since I was 17," Van Lue said as she began the tale ofwhy her long-sought college degree took her 22 more years to complete. "Iwas the oldest of 4 children growing up in poverty. When college wasmentioned, I was shot down with 'We're not going to have money for college,you're not going to college.'" That declaration from her parents came despitethe fact she tested as gifted and talented by 3rd grade. While teachersencouraged her to seek out college anyway, she didn't. "When you're 17 andon your own and there's nobody around you who's ever been to college, youdon't even know where to begin," she said. "I was too busy for a long timejust thinking about surviving."
In her senior year of high school, Van Lue dropped out so she could worktwo jobs. She joined the National Guard in hopes of earning money forcollege, but was dismissed after basic training. At 18, she married. Shebecame pregnant, and during that time she and her husband lost theirapartment, sending them to 3 months in a homeless shelter. Still, shereturned to finish high school, graduating with honors. Van Lue began full-time work right after earning her diploma. As she struggled to bring in moneyto support her family, Van Lue said she also had to endure an abusiverelationship. She left her husband when her daughter was 9 months old.
At 22, she met her current husband. For the next ten years, they struggled,spending time in homeless shelters and struggling to keep afloat. She wassure that a college degree could change everything, so the couple decided tomake a turn. "When I was 32 or 33, my husband and I sat down and said'can we make this happen?'" Van Lue said. "I just realized I would never becomplete until I followed my dreams."
Van Lue was working as a certified medical assistant full-time when shebegan part time classes at Ivy Tech. Her studies began in business but sheshifted to education. After a semester of evening and weekend classes, she left her job and opened a licensed day care in 2006. Through her experienceworking with children at her business and her early courses, she was sureeducation was the correct choice, though she admits she had to adjust whenshe came to IUPUI.
"I really had to change my whole outlook on education because the programhere at the School of Education is so different from what I experienced as achild," she said. In particular, she said the introduction of inquiry for youngstudents surprised her, focusing the instruction on the students, allowingthem to learn and discover through their own questions. "It wasn't worksheets," Van Lue said. "It was 'let's look outside and draw pictures of whatwe see and observe outside in science.' We would observe the fish and ask'why do the fish get really still?'" Van Lue particularly cited the work ofSpecial Education Assistant Professor Jane Stephenson, Clinical AssistantProfessor Lonnie Gill, and Visiting Lecturer Jane Leeth.
Throughout her student teaching, where much of what she taught wasprescribed, Van Lue said her School of Education experience made her feelsomething more was possible in the classroom. "I've learned to ask how wecan change this," she said. "How can we bring inquiry into a traditionalclassroom in a traditional school system."
And of course, she knows better than to assume students who come fromcertain backgrounds are destined for certain failure. "When someone tellsme that they're living in poverty, I can say, 'you know what, I grew up inpoverty and now I own a 4-bedroom home in a nice suburbanneighborhood,'" she said. "We have smart people that are living in poverty.We've got students who are capable of learning living in poverty. They justhave to have a chance."
Van Lue is proof of that. She already had a full-time offer before her studentteaching was complete. Shortly after graduation, she began exploring teaching out of state; her husband accepted a job in Colorado, and the couple planned to move west. Having earned the degree and a measure of confidence in her teaching, Van Lue is sure she'll be in a classroom somewhere. The pathway has opened, in ways almost unimaginable a few years ago.
"I don't know if I can even put it into words, because it's so..." she said as hervoice trailed, her eyes fighting tears. "I think it just really taught me that if youput your mind towards it, you can do anything. Anything is possible if youwant it badly enough."
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