A Life Redeemed: Online Student From Texas Credits GCU’s care, concern
By Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau
Forger, thief, prostitute, drug addict and now … GCU online student.
“God can do anything,” says LaTwan Gibbs, who is on track against all odds to graduate in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in counseling that would make her the first in her family to graduate from college.
A conversation with Gibbs, 40, who lives in the town of Center, Texas, less than 20 miles from the Louisiana border, provides ample material for a book or made-for-TV movie.
Three stints in the state penitentiary and dozens of trips to jail. At least six tries at drug rehab. In short, a series of serious problems.
“I was a beast,” she says, and the unsavory details of a 13-year stretch of her life do little to dispel the notion. “There’s nothing I didn’t do.”
The trouble began in August of 1995, when she witnessed the fatal shooting of her husband, a drug dealer. That began a swift downward spiral, which saw her habit reach $3,000 a day and her actions do anything to support it. She says she was run over twice and had guns pulled on her, acknowledging that she “should have been dead a long time ago.”
On Nov. 4, 2008, finally sick of it all, she turned herself in on forgery and theft charges — and turned to God for help. She had tried everything else.
During a prayerful night behind bars, she says, “I told Him, ‘Do what you will with me, so that I can be in control of my life again.’” After serving 60 days, she was out and ready to start over, with friends and family offering support.
They backed it up with a scholarship fund to help her continue her education. She inquired with GCU, and Enrollment Counselor Lenard McKenzie took it from there.
“He cared,” Gibbs says. “He listened to everything I said, and I felt like ‘Wow, I’m not a number.’ If not for him, I would have gone somewhere else and I wouldn’t have been so enthusiastic about (my education). Because of him, I’m still at GCU.”
McKenzie says that at the start, Gibbs barely knew how to use a computer. During her first year of study, they talked almost every day.
“There were some barriers, and I walked her through them,” he says. “She’s doing great now, and I’m encouraging her to finish.”
Gibbs credits others at the University as well, including academic counselors Sabrina Henderson and Erica Lizarraga, Financial Counselor Amber Timmons and Instructor Brian Raftery. When Gibbs lost her father to cancer last year, she says Henderson’s concern helped her pull through.
“These people have cared about me and they didn’t know me,” Gibbs says. “They have called me and wanted to know how I was doing. I am determined to meet each and every one of them. GCU has so many wonderful people.”
Active in her church and caring for children during the day, she says her goal is to be a social worker and drug counselor, helping others steer clear of the trouble that had a grip on her.
“I want the education,” she says. “I need the knowledge to go with the experience. All I want to do now is give back. God was with me. I know my purpose now, and it’s to stop others from going as far as I did.
“I’m not ‘better than,’ I was just delivered. God made a way for me.”