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May 4, 2003

Bethel grad trusted in her faith

From: South Bend Tribune, IN - May 4, 2003

Tribune Staff Writer

MISHAWAKA -- Lettie Reid came to town four years ago to begin classes at
Bethel College.

Reid was 41 years old, a mother of five and a lifelong Cincinnati resident
who was making a dramatic midlife change.

She arrived in a rented car and with enough money for only two weeks at a
motel. When that money ran out, she called Bethel's residential life office
and asked for help.

A woman visiting the office at the time heard about her request and offered
her a place to stay, free of charge.

Reid's guardian angel was Debbie Jaquay of Mishawaka, whose son Matt will
graduate with Reid today.

"I said, 'This has got to be God,' " Reid said, recalling the many people
who helped her. Reid, now 45, on today will be among the bachelor degree
recipients at the college in Mishawaka.

A Jaquay family friend gave Reid an old van to drive. She found a job as a
retail clerk and buckled down to classes.

Soon she had her own Mishawaka apartment and was able to move her three
youngest children -- Racquel, now 18; Rebecca, 15; and Joshua, 12 -- to live
with her.

"I was trusting God. I was going on faith," Reid said Thursday during a
lunch break from her job at a personnel agency in downtown South Bend.

Reid attended Bethel to study in the college's American Sign Language
interpreting program. She'll graduate with a degree in general studies with
concentrations in American Sign Language, sociology and human services.

She's seeking a job as an instructional aide in Indianapolis so she can work
with children and be closer to her extended family in Cincinnati. She hopes
to find a job that will allow her to use her interpreting skills.

American Sign Language was Reid's first language. Although she can hear,
both her parents and four of her seven siblings were born deaf. The family
uses signing to communicate.

Reid learned about Bethel's program from her mentor at Cincinnati State
College, where she earned an associate's degree in interpreting. Leaving her
hometown at midlife was a big change.

"It was definitely a challenge, but I love challenges," she said.

Reid had always been the major helper for her widowed mother, but other
siblings stepped in to help when she left for college.

Reid said she had to rely on welfare occasionally while raising her
children. "That was not a life for me. I knew I wanted more," she said.

She earned a full scholarship from a women's business association to pay for
her schooling. She's returned to Cincinnati each summer to work with
children in a YMCA program.

After working for a couple of years, she wants to earn a master's degree at
Gallaudet University, an institution in Washington, D.C., serving mainly
students who are deaf or hearing impaired.

"It's hard to quit once you get started," she said of higher education.

And she wants to write a book about her life growing up as a child with
hearing in a deaf family.

"Never give up," Reid said. "Never let anyone tell you what you can't do."

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