Catherine Andrews (BGS '21)
Bachelor of General Studies with Concentrations in Sociology and Family Studies
December 2021 — DENTON — “Seven times down, eight times up,” is a Japanese proverb that evokes, but doesn’t even begin to describe, Catherine Andrews’ resilience throughout her journey to earn a diploma.
At the age of 18, when many of her peers were focused on applying to college with the support of family and friends, Catherine found herself aging out of the foster care system. With few resources and no biological family to lean on, she struggled through bouts of unemployment and homelessness.
Things turned a corner when she started a family in New England and moved to South Carolina, where she began her associate’s degree at Greenville Technical College. She accepted a highly competitive internship with the Department of Social Services and launched her career working with children and families. She transferred again to Pennsylvania, one semester short of graduating, and then eventually returned to Texas.
However, after learning that almost none of her credits would carry over state lines, she restarted the process of earning her associate’s degree in what she describes as “fits and starts.”
One of the most important things for me is for foster kids to know their dreams are possible. No matter how long it takes to get there, you will get there.” Catherine Andrews
After completing her associate’s at North Central Texas College and falling in love with the TWU campus and community, Catherine enrolled in the general studies program. She became a scholar and student assistant with TWU’s Frontiers Program, an organization that supports and empowers foster care alumni.
“I thought to myself, ‘this is the college experience,’” Catherine recalls.
Then tragedy struck. Her husband experienced a traumatic brain injury and her youngest son was diagnosed with autism, the second of her four children to receive the diagnosis.. These two events profoundly impacted her family and derailed her education, leading to her departure from TWU in the summer of 2014.
“It broke my heart to leave,” Catherine recalled. Not only because she would be putting an indefinite hold on her education, but also because she found it so hard to walk away from her other “kids” in the Frontiers program, whom she looked after and cared for as family.
Following a subsequent transfer to Arkansas with her husband’s job, Catherine suffered a series of mini-strokes. Then COVID hit and the non-profit where she worked folded. However, it was at this point that she saw an opportunity to finish what she started.
Although she lived only half an hour from the University of Arkansas, Catherine dreamed of returning to TWU to receive a diploma with “Texas Woman’s University” written in bold script across the top. Taking advantage of the new remote learning opportunities available during the pandemic, she enrolled as a distance learner, completing 27 credits in only two semesters.
In addition to completing her degrees while raising four children in the face of countless setbacks, Catherine is a Center for Women in Politics & Public Policy Public Leadership Education Network law and legal advocacy scholar, an AmeriCorps alumna and a trained advocate for domestic violence survivors with the Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
She has already been accepted into the Master’s in Public Service Program at the University of Arkansas’ Clinton School of Public Service, where she intends to leverage her education and experience into a nonprofit leadership or policy advocacy position. Her passion lies in changing outcomes for others in the LGBTQ+, non-normative family and foster care communities.
Catherine will be one of less than 3% of foster care alumni nationwide to graduate from a four-year university this year, and we are honored to call her one of our own.
Don’t lose sight of the goal. Representation is important, and changing outcomes for others going through the foster care system is vital. Being at TWU gave me the knowledge of my own strength, power and voice.” Catherine Andrews
Page last updated 10:23 AM, December 6, 2021