Lillian Franklin recalls that evening in 2017 when she looked out from the carport of her Refugio home and watched a neighbor’s garage doors blow off.
“It was unbelievable,” Franklin said of recollection of Hurricane Harvey’s fury. “The whole top of my neighbor’s roof came off. I started going back into my house, and an H-E-B cart came flying by me. I couldn’t watch it anymore. The noise was so loud that I had to put my hands over my ears. I ran to my bathroom because it felt like my whole house was about to go.”
Franklin’s home and car sustained serious damage from the storm, but Harvey’s adverse effects were not limited to her property and possessions. Franklin was close to obtaining an Office Management Certificate at Victoria College, and the tragedy had her wondering if she would be able to finish.
“I had just started my accounting class,” Franklin said. “I was worried I was going to get too far behind and never be able to catch up.”
But Franklin, 53, was inspired by her son, Justin, to not give up.
“He’s always in my corner,” Franklin said of Justin, who had recently graduated with honors with a marketing degree from Sam Houston State University. “He had already accomplished what I was trying to accomplish.”
Victoria College’s Wrap-Around Services also supported Franklin’s efforts to continue her education by delivering several post-Harvey care packages to her and arranging distance-education correspondence so she could remain on course to gain her certificate.
“We became aware of Lillian’s struggles through our early alert system,” VC Director of Advising & Counseling Services Bobby Cubriel said. “When it was brought to our attention that Lillian was experiencing financial struggles, resulting in poor health and nutrition, we packed up several boxes of food and delivered them to her.”
“The third day after the hurricane, I still hadn’t had anything to eat,” Franklin said. “I was trying to flag anybody down to get anything. It was like being in a war zone. The hurricane wasn’t as bad as the aftermath.”
Franklin lived in California for 15 years after serving four years in Germany with the U.S. Army during Desert Storm. She moved back to Refugio without a job after her father became ill.
“I started working at the Dollar General,” said Franklin, who had worked at a law firm and as an office assistant at Ariat International while in California. “I was there for about five years, but I felt like I was just spinning my wheels. To me, it wasn’t a career.”
After much coaxing, Justin convinced his mother to go back to school.
“I thought about it, but I wasn’t doing anything about it,” said Franklin, who briefly attended Texas A&M University-Kingsville and Coastal Bend College in Beeville before joining the Army. “Then one night I had a dream that I was back in the Army. I kept telling people, ‘I’m not supposed to be here. I’m going to school.’ I woke up that morning and went to the Veterans Administration office in Corpus Christi to make sure I was eligible for the GI Bill.”
Franklin confirmed her eligibility and immediately went to Victoria College, but she had to overcome her fear of returning to school.
“School isn’t like it used to be,” Franklin said. “Everything now is automated. I had a lot of catching up to do.”
Franklin had contemplated other schools, but had heard she would get more personal instruction at Victoria College.
“I thought Victoria College would be the best fit for me, and it turned out to be just that,” Franklin said. “I loved the instructors. The classes were smaller and that allowed me to get more one-on-one instruction.”
Franklin obtained her Office Management Certificate and two Occupational Skills Awards in business management at the end of the Spring 2018 semester. She is completing her third Occupational Skills Award this spring and plans on pursuing a bachelor’s degree.
“My son asked me, ‘Why stop now?’ Victoria College has prepared me to explore more options than I thought I would ever have,” Franklin said. “An education is something no one can take away from you.”