When Rita Price ‘19 needed to take a few evening courses to complete requirements for her Carlow University bachelor’s degree, she found herself with a dilemma. The two-bus commute from her Carnegie apartment to the Oakland campus was geographically challenging by day, and extremely demanding on late dark winter nights.
Enter Patricia Jameson, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Psychology and Counseling, and Price’s senior thesis advisor, who volunteered to drive Price the first leg of her trip home so she could get there at a reasonable hour after every night class.
“The rides gave us time to connect more,” Jameson said. “I watched her apply her new knowledge to her own life story, which she speaks about as being very healing for her.”
Jameson was among many helpful staff and faculty — extoling the Carlow values of mercy, service and hospitality — helping Price on her journey to graduation. But the night bus wasn’t the only thing Rita price had to endure during her Carlow career.
An adult student, Price had experienced significant personal hurdles, overcoming domestic violence and homelessness, street crime, health problems and learning challenges, persevering through it while keeping a positive outlook.
“I went from trauma to triumph,” Price said. “That’s the way I look at my life.”
She graduated in December with a general studies degree with an emphasis on psychology, crisis and trauma, and is seeking to become a counselor for others dealing with similar life situations. “I can show people you can endure, press through and you can get results,” said Price, 60. “It takes a lot of trial and error.”
Originally from Beaver County, Price said she was a high school honors student, played piano and clarinet, and participated in choir and theater, all while caring for her younger siblings as her mother suffered domestic abuse. After high school, she took community college courses in nursing, respiratory therapy and criminal justice, and spent years in low-wage childcare, retail and cleaning jobs, also finding herself a victim of domestic violence. Once her two daughters were grown, she sought a new path for her life.
“I raised them to adults and then decided to return to school, get a job and be an asset to society,” Price said. “I wanted to help other moms and dads have healing and show they can overcome their adversities.”
Price began attending a large four-year college, but after three on-campus muggings, she began seeking a new school. Simultaneously, she became homeless and was living at a downtown women’s shelter. A few blocks away, she eventually met Dr. Jennifer Roth, PhD, a Carlow associate professor in the Department of Psychology and Counseling, outside First Lutheran Church.
Roth, a First Lutheran parishioner, said she and others began mentoring Price through the church’s poverty alleviation initiative. They found Price a place to live and suggested educational alternatives.
“One of the complaints she had (about her other school was) she felt anonymous and lost,” Roth said. “I said it sounds like you need a place that’s more personal and close-knit. I named three in the region like that, but after she came to a Carlow open house, she was sold.”
Price transferred to Carlow in 2017, and faculty and staff have championed her cause by living Carlow’s vision to provide transformational learning experiences supporting students in realizing their full potential.
Price took advantage of Carlow’s Center for Academic Achievement, which helps students succeed through tutoring and educational workshops. The financial aid office searched all corners to fund Price’s tuition, Roth said.
Price said she sees herself as a textbook example of how to prevail over life’s early hardships.
“Nobody turns their back on you,” Price said. “Nobody coddled me.”
Her professors agreed.
“The expectations for her were the same as any other student and she more-than excelled,” Jameson said. Now that she’s graduated and seeking employment, she says she’s looking forward to encouraging solutions for others.
Although Price has lived in poverty much of her life, affluence is not her goal.
“It’s not about making all kind of money. It’s what can you do good in society,” she said.
She cites not only Carlow staff and faculty for facilitating her future, but also to the lessons of her own mother, who is 76 and continues to work at a nursing home cleaning crew, and of her circuitous educational route itself, which contained life lessons.
“God has a way of putting you right where you need to be to do his work in the world,” Price said. “Be bold and look for the light. That will lead you to your next assignment.”