Ms Brandi Lewis-Anderson has had more than her fair share of barriers in this life. The first occurred when she was only 9 years old. A terrible car accident wiped her childhood memories and knowledge of self and family. The accident and Brandi’s injuries also derailed her mother’s own pursuit of a college degree.
Through the 8th grade, Brandi attended schools in her rough neighborhood through 8th grade. Then, In accordance with city policy at the time, Brandi was bused to a new environment to attend career school at George Washington High in the northeast..
At GW, she thrived and fell in love with business, performing so well in her internship the host company hired her full time upon graduation. During the entirety of senior year, Brandi met with her guidance counselor only one time. A college degree was not on her radar, much less did she understand it as a necessary credential to build a business career beyond data entry. Life would be work.
Eligible for settlement funds from the car accident at age 18, but with no guidance or thoughts toward college or college educated role models, Brandi logically used the funds to take care of her family. The needs of extended family members soon exhausted the account.
By her early 20s, Brandi became aware of the better opportunities and higher quality of life known by college educated colleagues and friends. But with no remaining resources, college seemed unaffordable. She tried CCP, but soon, the time demand of her two jobs edged out classwork.
Then came the rekindling of an old, but troubled, relationship and Brandi’s first two children. The workday now included trucking her boys to daycare via bus heavily burdened by a stroller and carseat. It was a new lifestyle that required another move.
Enjoying learning at her job, her employer noted Brandi’s intelligence and capability and created a full time position for her. Inspired by the new neighborhood and another new child, and with some financial support from her partner, Brandi renewed her pursuit of a degree and enrolled in the University of Phoenix. Brandi was making solid progress, but then, only ten credits short of a degree, life challenges necessitated that she leave school. Life soon became a financial struggle as the university sought to collect unpaid tuition, the troubled relationship ended, and a difficult birth and extended hospital stay led to a pileup of back rent. Housing court favored the landlord and Brandi with her four young children became homeless.
Brandi and family had to live in a shelter for a short time. She managed to maintain the childrens’ routines, camp and school, and work full time, all the while keeping her eye on the prize of education. Then the car broke down. It was almost too much.
Just in time and by grace, a co-worker invited the whole family to share his one bedroom apartment. With this breath of stability, Brandi reenrolled in college for the third time. To ensure her highly gifted oldest son would have a far smoother path to college, she sent him to Milton Hershey school for a free private school education, soon followed by her daughter. Then covid hit. And everyone came home.
Brandi had to put college aside again during pandemic life. With gratitude to her colleague, she found a different housing arrangement to better accommodate the full family. As pandemic life established itself, Brandi was able to continue working full time. It was there that a friend from work introduced her to the ACE program. A new pathway to a college degree reenergized Brandi’s vision. Although ACE had transitioned from in-person teaching to a zoom environment, the support provided by ACE staff was still available and made all the difference in the world.
Brandi spoke with the Deliverance team, led by Ms. Celeste Atkins, about restarting her college journey. After meeting them, she knew she wouldn’t be alone this time in her degree pursuit. Realizing her vision for a college degree seemed closer than ever before. Brandi thrived as she met with academic success in the human services program. She even succeeded in math! Math was a struggle throughout her schooling, but thanks to a gifted instructor, she ‘got math’ for the first time.
Ironically, Brandi and family ironically enjoyed relative stability from 2020 – 2022 while the world was in chaos. Then, with only two classes remaining, tragedy struck. Brandi lost her son.
In shock over his passing, she tried initially to become numb, pushing aside her grief to press on, but soon realized she had to take time off from work and school. The supportive ACE staff at Deliverance negotiated a leave of absence on her behalf so that Brandi could remain enrolled and complete her final classes when she was able.
Brandi completed her classes and graduated the following semester, but it was bittersweet. Her son did not have the opportunity to complete his university studies and realize his dream. Brandi found a source of comfort and celebration by crossing the commencement stage the same year her daughter graduated from high school. “It was momentous.”
Amidst the chaos that her life circumstances generated, Brandi navigated her way to college at every step. Her grandmother’s words, “Don’t let the time catch you,” helped her sustain the fight. During every season of challenge after challenge after challenge, doing the best by her children and herself was her guiding mission. “I didn’t let myself down.”
Brandi is now continuing her college journey with Alvernia University @ Deliverance, coming full circle returning to major in business.