Jessica's Education Need

Hello everyone! In case you don’t know me, my name is Jessica Thompson. I love stories, so today, I would like to tell you mine. Opening up about my past has always been rather difficult for me, but after prayer, counsel, and much thought, I decided to clear my throat, and assume a narrator’s voice. So here we are! The story I’m going to tell you circles around finances and education, and is full of simultaneous joy, angst, and pain, but I’m holding out hope for a happy ending!

Education has always been important to me. When I was little, I loved school and did my best to excel despite the hardships I was facing at home. This wasn’t always easy, especially because from the ages of 8 to 14 I went to 11 different schools. I was used to the tumult though, but then things started to fall apart. The summer before ninth grade brought negative changes I hadn’t prepared for. Yet hallelujah! God intervened and I was rescued from an emotionally and physically abusive home environment and was given a fresh start. My aunt and uncle’s decision to allow me and my sister into their home was life-changing in the most beautiful way.

In many ways high school was hard, but academically I did well and college was the natural next step. I applied to four schools and had my pick when the acceptance letters arrived. I was so excited to pursue my education, but the challenging question of how to pay for it was next up to bat. Because I hadn’t seen or spoken to my biological mother in over twelve years and was currently estranged from my biological father and his wife, the state only recognized my income (which consisted of my part time job coaching gymnastics). They considered me independent which placed a huge financial burden on my shoulders. My status led the way for grants and scholarships, but not enough to cover all of my expenses. After much prayer and consideration, I decided to attend Grove City College and took out a loan for the money that wasn’t offered. I started classes at Grove City in the fall of 2015, directly after graduating from high school, and my excitement couldn’t be contained. I felt like I had found my school and was overjoyed at the idea of having the next four years to figure out where God was calling me and deciding what my future was going to look like. Frankly, I wasn’t prepared for what would come next.

My classes were challenging, but I felt like I could handle it. However, each semester brought greater challenges in and outside the classroom. Emotionally, I was far from okay. Because of my past and the abuse I received, I was broken more than I cared to admit. Most of my childhood I didn’t feel loved by my parents. My biological mother hadn’t been present for over a decade. My biological father and stepmother fostered an environment full of negativity and pain. I couldn’t shake the question of why. Why had all of this happened to me? How do I live with my own reality? This is something I wrestle with to this day, but God’s faithfulness with the process has been a catalyst for positive change in my life. (It’s a long way to recovery, but the road is paved with the grace and love of Christ).

Not-so-fun fact about me: I’m a stuffer. For years, I was in an environment where my feelings were negated and so I’d bury them. I’d stuff them deep down where no one could see or use them against me. I was determined not to get hurt and that hardened my heart. It made me bitter. It wasn’t until I was away from the only place that ever felt like home to me, that I realized just how much my past was still affecting me. I didn’t want to, but I knew that I desperately needed to deal with all the junk. Everything I had hidden was making me bitter and angry and unpleasant to be around. While this was going on, I tried to distract myself by studying harder than I ever had to complete courses that were so much harder than I ever expected.

My grades started suffering and my discouragement grew. I lost my funding, but I still felt pressure to be in school and do everything I could to make it work so I decided to take out another loan. This time the amount wasn’t as much but the interest rate was fixed at 9%. Because of compounded interest, that made my $10,000 loan close to $30,000 by the time I would be able to pay it back. But God provided here too. By placing people in my life, especially my good friend’s mother who cosigned for me, I was able to take the next step.

This brings us to the end of the fall semester in 2016. Before this semester I received a letter telling me that I had 2 semesters to bring up my GPA or face expulsion. As you can imagine, it was the hardest semester to date. I was desperately trying to improve my grades, but my attempts continued to fall flat and my frustrations heightened. I was determined to make it back to school in the spring despite how my semester ended, but couldn’t come up with the money so I had to return to the school but instead of beginning classes, I packed up my things, and tried to accept that I would have to postpone my education for at least a semester. I definitely didn’t like the idea of being behind and having to dig myself out of this seemingly enormous hole. I’d been through a lot, but this was (and still is) one of the hardest things for me to accept and live with.

We’re going to fast forward a little bit to March of 2017. I knew since I was no longer in school, my loans would eventually come out of the grace period and I would have to start making payments. The next step was to find a job and I got one shortly after starting my search at a nearby David’s Bridal. Again, here is God’s provision- this job has been not only a constant source of income, but a steady flow of joy, community, and fun.

Along comes May and after taking a break from classes for a semester I was determined not to get any farther behind. I felt ready to get back into the academic swing of things so I enrolled in summer online classes through Grove City and spent my summer with my hands at work and my nose in books. I took two courses and got my first A ever in college. By the end of the summer, I had successfully met my goal and reversed the damage I had done when it came to my GPA. I was over the moon and decided that online classes were the way to go to finish my degree. I knew I would need to transfer schools and so I began to search. Eventually, I found a school and a program that was as close to perfect as they come. Unfortunately, because of details and caveats, transferring schools didn’t return my loans to deferment. Basically, in order to pay for my loans, I wouldn’t be able to take classes because of how much I would need to work to make those payments. The only way I would receive financial aid is to attend a university at least half time. Needing to work a full schedule and take classes would likely result in a case of déjà vu to a time that I don’t think it wise to relive.

This brings us to today. God has provided for me at every step of my journey by planting people in my life who have accepted, supported and cared for me in ways that I will never deserve. Right now, I’m asking that you would please join their ranks. I’m at an impasse. The burden of these loans and the postponement of my education is a huge stressor and a struggle in my life. I’m not normally one who allows for vulnerability or asks for help, but I’m asking for you to see me where I am and offer support if you can. I’m asking for prayer as I discern the next steps God has for me, continue in a new capacity at my job, continue the healing process and financial help. In order to be able to pay back my loans in full, I need at least $20,300 by the end of February of this year. I realize this is right around the corner and that I’m asking for a lot, but I would love to see at least half of my goal met. $10,000 would pay off my higher interest rate loan and would drastically cut back on the amount of money I would be paying in the long run. Every little bit helps because there are interest payments to be made as it is added each day.

We’ve come to a new chapter in my story, and I don’t know the ending. But I do know the author of my story, and he is good, faithful, and true. Sometimes I feel like a damsel in distress, locked up in a high tower by scary loan numbers, but I know that God is faithful and loving and that often the greatest view comes after the hardest climb. It’s because of Him I have hope and the courage to step out in faith as I continue on my journey. Please know that I love each and every one of you and appreciate the time and consideration you have put forward in listening to my story!

In Christ, with love,
Jessica Thompson
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Jessica Thompson 
Aliquippa, PA
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