Student realizing dreams while overcoming adversity

When Raven Ferrell logged onto her first virtual college course at Jackson State Community College last August, she achieved a major goal in her life.

“I’ve always had dreams and goals in my life,” said the 28-year-old mother. “I always wanted to go to college.”

There were days in her life, however, when Ferrell didn’t think she would live past high school, let alone go to college and start a career. She’s a recovering drug addict and alcoholic who started on alcohol and pot when she was 13 and who was hooked on heroin by the time she graduated from Haywood County High School. She’s been in jail more times than she can count.

Ferrell started turning her life around three years ago because she was pregnant. Since early 2018, she’s been sober and drug-free. Her last time in jail was February 1, 2018. She went to rehab for a year and got her own apartment. She then got a job in admissions at Aspell Recovery Center’s Jackson campus.

Now she owns a house and she’s engaged to be married. Her son, Blayden, is two years old. And, with the support of new friends in her life, she started college at Jackson State this fall.

Ferrell, who is considered a non-traditional student, chose to attend Jackson State because of the Tennessee Reconnect Scholarship. With aid from other sources, her final financial aid package covers not only tuition but fees and books as well. The additional aid allowed her to purchase a laptop at the beginning of the semester, which would not have been possible with Reconnect alone.

When she logged in to her first class – English Comp 1 – in late August, she was apprehensive and fearful, worried about the unknown of college, that she wouldn’t succeed, that she would encounter another roadblock in her life.

She did well her first semester, however. “I just did everything I could to show gratitude for everyone who is rooting for me. So many have touched my life to help me. I am extremely grateful.”

Her plans are to get an associate degree and then a bachelor’s degree in social work. “I want to be a drug and alcohol counselor,” Ferrell said. “I love seeing families reunited. I want to be a part of that.”

Born in Brownsville, Ferrell moved often with her mother. They returned to Haywood County when she was a teenager. Alcoholism and drug addiction run in her family, she said, and it was family members who first introduced her to liquor and drugs.

Having a college degree and career would be more than a milestone in her life, she said. “It would be so great to say I have a career. Other than being a mother, reaching that goal would finally give me a purpose in life. I would have something constant and stable in my life. I’ve never had that. It’s a game-changer.”

Jackson State is currently recruiting for the spring semester, which begins January 19, 2021. The Tennessee Reconnect Scholarship is available to any Tennessee adult who has never completed a post-secondary credential. To learn more about the scholarship, to apply for college admission or to sign up for classes, call 425-2601 or visit jscc.edu/gotime. Jackson State has several resources to help non-traditional students earn a technical certification or a two-year associate degree.