ACC staff pays off tuition debt for once homeless teen

Austin-American Statesman: ACC staff pays off tuition debt for once homeless teen

By Nicole Villalpando and Andrea Ball

Austin Community College wants Lyric Wardlow back in school. Members of the ACC Cabinet, campus operations and public affairs departments pooled donations and paid off $332 in Pell grant debt that Wardlow owed when she needed to drop out of classes after a family member died.

Now the once-homeless teen can restart school with a clean slate. The student services and special populations services departments also are working with Wardlow and her advocate at LifeWorks, the nonprofit agency that nominated her for the Statesman Season for Caring program, about other solutions to help Wardlow return to school.

Wardlow is one of 12 families featured in the Statesman Season for Caringprogram this year. The program helps the featured families first, but then helps hundreds of other families throughout the year with basic needs such as rent, utilities, food, clothing, medical needs and transportation.

Wardlow, 19, and her mother became homeless when Wardlow was 9. She quit high school to care for her mom, who has mental illness and hoarding tendencies. Wardlow, though, is resilient. Through Goodwill Industries, she got her high school equivalency degree and even gave a speech at her graduation.

She is trying hard to be self-sufficient by working in a roller-skating rink to make ends meet, but an education would help her further her goals.

“I want to be successful,” she said. “I want to be a beautiful, confident, black woman in this age. I don’t want to go to the store and wonder if there’s enough money in my bank account.”

She has become an advocate for homeless people and would like to continue that professionally.

Her biggest need is tuition assistance to restart school. She also would like health insurance, gas cards, bus passes, cat food, cat litter, a gym membership, a bedroom furniture set, lamps, a vacuum cleaner, organizational bins and gift cards. To help, contact LifeWorks, 512-735-2400,

Two other Season for Caring families also need help getting into school or staying in school.

Jazmyne Johnson, 24, is the mother of 4-year-old twin girls and a 3-year-old boy. One of her twins has microcephaly, which means her head didn’t grow large enough to fit her brain. Johnson would like to go to college to pursue a career in biotechnology. She needs help with tuition as well as a car to get her to school and her children to their HeadStart program. She also needs help with day care expenses and everyday bills so she can go to school. To help, contact Opportunities for Williamson and Burnet Counties, 512-763-1400,

Sisters Samanta Osorio Negron, 25, and Mayleth Aguilar Negron, 18, have been trying to go to Austin Community College. Their father died in a car accident last December, and Osorio Negron was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in January. Osorio Negron hopes to be well enough to re-enroll in business and finance classes, and Aguilar Negron wants to continue with real estate classes. She works in a restaurant to help her family pay their bills after the loss of their father. They also need a used car and car repairs to their existing car, a computer, and a math tutor for their 10-year-old brother, Luis. To help, contact Foundation Communities, 512-610-7391,