From the streets to the classroom

The Theresa Taylor of today looks nothing like the Theresa Taylor of four years ago.

Back then, the 45-year-old was sleeping in Congress Park and by sheer luck, managed to survive one of the worst blizzards in years. She succumbed to an emotional breakdown and until being saved by Shelters of Saratoga, knew nothing about her future except that she didn't have anywhere to call home.

Today, Taylor is getting ready to graduate from Schenectady County Community College with an associate's degree in chemical dependency counseling and preparing to pursue her bachelor's in social work, most likely at the College of Saint Rose.

To go from living in Congress Park four short years ago, to having this happen to my life, is monumental, said Taylor. "I'm so grateful for this opportunity that presented itself to me."

But it isn't that Taylor is graduating from her first phase of college at the age of 50 that's so remarkable. She's graduating the recipient of a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, presented to only 60 students from across the country and one of only four chosen from New York State community colleges.

"It's a miracle that it could happen twice to Schenectady in that many years," said Taylor, who said another student received the award in recent years and it wasn't likely to happen again so soon. "This is life changing for me."

Taylor was chosen out of 785 applicants to receive the prestigious scholarship, which will cover a significant portion of her tuition, living expenses, books and other fees while she works toward her bachelor's.

Without the scholarship (up to $30,000 a year), realizing her dream of a higher education degree might not have happened so quickly.

"I'm very excited about the future now," said Taylor.

Taylor said being given a second chance at life is what fueled her almost obsessive dedication to her schoolwork.

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