Deniece Rogers is not your typical PhD student. A native of Englewood, Deniece dropped out of high school after one year. She enrolled at a community college at age 53, but with a 7th grade reading level, her GPA was 1.75. She needed a minimum 2.0 GPA to qualify for financial aid, so Deniece joined Chicago Literacy Alliance and was assigned a tutor, who remains her mentor to this day. She transferred to DePaul Univeristy, where she studied women’s issues and discovered her passion for teaching.
Deniece learned about NLEN’s U-Turn Permitted program through her tutor/mentor, and completed the program in 2008 at age 55. “From UTP I learned that I’m a leader,” Deniece says. “I was voted class president. I was the only student there who was attending college at night. The students looked up to me. I learned to speak up because I was kind of shy.”
Deniece completed her undergraduate studies with a 4.0 GPA and earned her Master of Arts in Adult Education from DePaul University at age 65. She is currently studying Educational Leadership at DePaul, and plans to earn her PhD within four years. “I set a goal for myself to earn all As. So far it’s been happening,” she says.
A teacher to her core, Deniece gives back to NLEN by returning once a year to speak at U-Turn Permitted Milestone Ceremony. There she presents each participant two gifts: a biography of African-American social reformer Frederick Douglas, and a mustard seed, representing faith. “I would highly recommend NLEN,” says Deniece. “The instructors genuinely care…It’s about having a second opportunity to find out who you are. I never knew who I was nor did I know my capabilities. I’m becoming a whole person with balance.”