COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Since 1989, Traci Lewis has been helping parenting students keep the dream of a college degree alive.
As the Director of ACCESS, an academic and social support program that assists parenting students in overcoming barriers that can keep them from graduating from OSU, Lewis helps students with academic support, assistance with child care and housing and mentoring programs.
“My motto is, we’re going to get you graduated by any means necessary,” said Lewis.
And for the past 16 years, that is exactly what Traci has done.
“It is not often that you find people that say, I love my job. I love getting up in the morning, I love doing what I do … but I’m one of those people. I absolutely love what I Do. My students make my day,” she said.
Through her work, the ACCESS program helps with things from housing, to childcare, to medical costs. Traci’s office at times is like a daycare center.
“It would not be unusual to find a playpen for the little one in it, maybe another child that is sitting in the TV room,” she said.
Lewis helped create a space in the library for kids to play and read while mom or dad is busy studying. Right now, the program serves just over 50 students and close to 100 children.
Traci said that the program has an 88 percent graduation rate and student retention of 90 percent.
While you would think parenting students may struggle academically, the average GPA is 3.4 and sometimes all they need is a shoulder to lean on.
She also helps their children, or Baby Buckeyes, as Lewis calls them.
“Not only are we celebrating moms who are graduating, but we are also celebrating kiddos that did something significant. They went from kindergarten to first grade, middle school to high school, maybe they successfully potty-trained,” she said.
Seeing her students years later is all the recognition she needs.
“It lets me know what we did do made a difference. It was important,” she said.