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Indiana Protection & Advocacy Services

IPAS > Special Education > Overview > Jean - Education & Employment: Independence through IPAS Jean - Education & Employment: Independence through IPAS


JeanJean is not the typical Hoosier college student. The 52-year-old self-proclaimed "aging hippie on campus" is pursuing a bachelor's degree in humanities at Indiana University East, and is loving every minute of it.

But a few short years ago, Jean's life was very different. Jean suffers from recurring major depressive disorder, social phobia and traumatic stress syndrome, and has received medicinal treatment and psychotherapy since 1989.

"I was married for 26 years-and he was not a nice person," Jean shared. "When we did finally divorce, I thought I was going to lose everything-including my 16-year-old daughter-and be penniless. I knew I had no chance. And the day of the final hearing, I ended up in a psych ward at a local hospital."

After this ordeal, Jean began the process of counseling, which for her also included vocational rehabilitation. It was this experience that led her to IPAS two years ago.

Jean had been receiving vocational rehabilitation to help her start her own cleaning and pet care business, but she really wanted to go back to college. Unfortunately, the state vocational rehabilitation program did not agree that college was necessary for Jean to operate a successful business.

"I felt I was getting stonewalled and not being heard-I was getting nowhere," Jean said.

Then, Jean was introduced to an advocate from IPAS.

"She was the first person who gave credence to my concerns," Jean recalled. "I remember thinking, 'wow, someone heard me and really listened.' She drove up here from Indy; we sat down and talked, opened up the line of communications, and set the groundwork for my new education goals. She negotiated the whole thing."

Because of the advocate's intervention though IPAS, Jean is now back in school full time and is earning straight A's. And she feels right at home in the Fine Arts School, where she takes classes in graphic design and ceramics.

"IPAS helped put me in an environment where I didn't feel like a square peg anymore," Jean shared. "I met with tremendous success academically. Most importantly, I feel nurtured-and even though college is a sheltered environment, I now see a future for myself not only on a day-to-day basis, but down the road."

Jean now aspires to get her master's degree and is realizing hopes and dreams she was denied for 26 years.

"Without the intervention, I might have balked at the change in my vocational rehabilitation, thinking they were playing a game," she said. "I didn't trust anyone. But IPAS was an incredible surprise to me. Somebody listened."

Jean says she is a testament to the fact that "even aging hippies can go back to school and succeed."

"When I share what I have done with other people, it gets them thinking-you are never too old to keep trying," Jean said. "Through the help I received from IPAS, rather than saying I'm too old, I have been able to dream, and live my dreams. It is never too late."