Tera Lawless makes no bones about it: Without the state’s A+ program, she would not have attended college.
“I would probably still be waiting tables,” she said.
But thanks to the popular, state-funded program that helps community college students with education costs, Lawless was able to enroll at OTC, graduate and go on to Missouri State University, where she recently graduated with a degree in mathematics.
“I don’t know how I would have done it without A+. I didn’t know about student loans,” she said. “I can’t imagine not having A+. I think it helps students who are doubting themselves. It gives them a chance to try.”
Lawless is a full-time math tutor in the OTC Speckman Tutoring and Learning Center.
Lawless graduated from Glendale High School. She was not accepted at her dream college because she just missed having the required grade point average. She also didn’t qualify for enough student aid.
That left her with one alternative: attend OTC. She wasn’t thrilled about the idea.
“I thought ‘This is a community college.’ I can’t believe I have to go to community college. I really wished I could go somewhere else. I was really embarrassed,” she said.
“I thought it was for people who wanted to study in the technical fields, not for people who wanted to be teachers.”
But her parents, including her mom, who was one of the first students to attend OTC 25 years ago to earn a nursing degree, told Lawless that not going to college was not an option.
So off to OTC the then-18-year-old went and she soon developed a new attitude about the college and what it offered.
“I was nervous. I was on campus by myself and I had to find my own way around,” she said. “We had an orientation class for a week and my first encounter with an instructor was with Jeff Jones. He was very positive. That’s when I started to see that this in not that bad of a place.”
Lawless got her job with the tutoring center thanks, in part, to tutoring she had to do to qualify for the A+ program.
“I love it here. I love OTC and I love tutoring,” she said. “I’ve had some of the best instruction through OTC. If you need help, you can stop anyone for help here. I didn’t feel that at the university.”
Steve Koehler is coordinator of media relations at Ozarks Technical Community College.