Seven and a half years ago, Debra Jo Jenkins of Gloucester, was an eighth-grade dropout, an inpatient at the Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center ward, suffering severe post-traumatic stress disorder, writhing in the pains of withdrawal from heroin and other drugs, hopeless, helpless, and suicidal.
Jenkins says that was the last of a lifetime of similar stays, in various institutions. She drew a line in the sand, so to speak, and on September 27, 2013, she “cried out to God and asked Him to help me live the rest of my life completely different than formerly.” She got busy volunteering with the Salvation Army, and the G.U.E.S.T. shelter, then she started college at Rappahannock Community College (RCC).
Today, Jenkins says, “I am a happy, hopefully healthy, thriving sixty-something year-old-woman, and Summa Cum Laude graduate of RCC, with a degree in Psychology and Sociology. I do not know if I would have succeeded as well at another college.”
“RCC Glenns had the right instructors, staff, fellow students, etc., at the right time, which helped steer me to succeed through hard work. I feel like God tailor-made the perfect environment to fit my psychological, and of course educational, needs,” she added.
Jenkins acknowledges that this past year was particularly difficult, with the pandemic and the state of the nation. Living with PTSD, she says it would have been easy to let all the drama, and true trauma all around her, distract her from her studies. “Sometimes you must grab the bull by the horns and forge ahead through everything to meet your goals,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins has many people to thank for contributing to her success, especially her family. “I thank every instructor at RCC that I had the privilege of learning with. Since Math, English, and Biology were especially hard: thank you Jackie Nelson, Lori Johnson, Lisa Tuckey, and Eliseo Bautista, who helped me succeed.”
Ms. Jenkins earned her associate degree in psychology and sociology and plans to utilize RCC’s transfer program with Old Dominion University to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in human services. “Why would I tell everyone about my struggles?” she asked. “I want people who are in situations that I survived, to know that their dreams, their “someday” hopes, can become reality.”