Dozens Fulfill Dream Of Getting Free College Education

Donnette Barber has always dreamed of going to college, but life threw some obstacles in her way.

The 36-year old single mom had to raise four children and a grandchild.

Money was also tight.

"Being a parent, children, my grandchild here. It's just constant struggle over and over. Odds and ends don't meet. You work, but barely making enough money to support your family," Donnette Barber said

Financial problems won't be a barrier between Barber and her college goals anymore.

Barber is among 25-students who will participate in the "Dream of Prosperity" program.

They were chosen based on need, and their desire to have a better career and improve their quality of life.

"It was amazing. I just cannot believe that. Just to have an opportunity like this to come to you is just unbelievable," Barber said.

Through the program, each member of this "dream team" will receive up to $5,000 a year.

The money will help pay for tuition at the Jeff Davis campus in Gulfport, or the West Harrison County Center in Long Beach.

Vouchers will also cover other family expenses like cafeteria costs, gasoline, even child care.

"They're getting their tuition paid for. They're getting books. They're getting a lot of benefits. So it's more than a scholarship. It's truly a life opportunity to remove barriers that they've had in the past for an education," Alfredo Cruz with the Knight Foundation said

"This is a dream for them and an opportunity for many of them that they would not have had without this grant. We expect the grant and the participants to be very successful for continued funding to expand this opportunity for more people and more counties," said M.G.C.C. Presdient Dr. Willis Lott

So far, all of the participants are women.

Many are single moms who are working low-wage jobs, or relying on government assistance.

They hope the "Dream of Prosperity" Program will help pull them out of poverty.

Donnette Barber has high hopes.

She can now put some of her worries aside and concentrate on fulfilling her dream of becoming a nurse.

"This program is going to change my life tremendously. I'm going to go from being where I'm at now of barely making it, to be able to take care of all of my family's needs. I'll come out being a successful woman with a degree on my shoulders," said Barber

The program is funded by a $305,000 grant by the Knight Foundation.

Not everyone can apply for it. Students have to be referred through the school's financial aid office, United Way, or the Gulf Coast Community Action Agency.