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Class of 2012 student speaker was homeschooled

Student Success Story, May 18, 2012

Lauren Macbeth, the Community College of Rhode Island’s 2012 student commencement speaker, had not intended to go to college, but she has graduated this spring with a 3.97 GPA and a degree in General Business.

Macbeth, 23, of Warren, was raised and homeschooled in a devout Christian home. Her education was rigorous, giving her a comprehensive knowledge of the sciences, history, language, art and theology.

Macbeth said her mother used an integrated curriculum in which she and her four sisters studied the same topics, each at her own level. “I might be reading the ‘Iliad’ and my youngest sister might be looking at picture books. We were all learning about the same things, so it made for interesting conversations at the dinner table,” she said.

The curriculum covered literature, geography and history, and each child had a separate curriculum for math and science. And, yes, there were tests. “We also wrote a lot of papers and reflective pieces based on what we were learning,” she said. As the girls grew older, they sometimes participated in cooperative classes with other homeschooled children in subject areas where parents had expertise, such as speech and debate.

Macbeth was naturally inquisitive. “I was just curious about why everything had to be one way,” she said.

At age 18, she left home and began working for the Rhode Island Philharmonic, first as a manager of the organization’s Barrington branch, then as box office manager. A dedicated cellist, Macbeth first became involved with the Philharmonic when she was 14 years old.

Macbeth made friends who encouraged her to consider going to college. Knowing she could not support herself forever without a degree, she researched area schools and quickly discovered that not only would money be an obstacle, but so would her unique background. She had no official high school transcript and also was unable to apply for financial aid.

Faced with paying for college entirely out of pocket, Macbeth took a single course at CCRI in the spring 2009 semester – her first experience in a typical classroom setting.

“We went around the room saying something unique about ourselves and I said, ‘My name is Lauren. I was homeschooled, and this is my first time in a classroom.’ People looked at me like, ‘Who is this crazy girl?’”

This first class, English composition, was taught by Assistant Professor Denise Parrillo, whom Macbeth has come to consider a friend.

“It was nerve-wracking because I didn’t know if I was capable of classroom work. But I quickly discovered that I loved it,” Macbeth said.

She found that her education had prepared her well. “I am so grateful for the education I received,” she said. “My parents gave me the proper foundation to get where I am today and instilled in me a love of learning that will always be with me.”

More classes followed as Macbeth applied for every scholarship she could find.

“I learned about all of the scholarships and opportunities that were available, and there was just this outpouring of support from the college,” she said.

Macbeth took all of her classes at night because of a full-time job at Roger Williams University as Feinstein Institute program coordinator at the School of Law. This job was instrumental to her success: After six months of employment, the university pays for its employees to attend school there or somewhere else. Macbeth has applied to several schools; she likely will transfer to Roger Williams to finish her bachelor’s degree in the university’s community-development program. She hopes to manage a nonprofit organization one day.

To other students who may be going it alone in college, or just facing a tough time, Macbeth said, “Realize the support you have around you, especially from your classmates.”

“It was the professors and the staff and my fellow students who kept me going,” she said. “Value the ‘community’ part of the Community College of Rhode Island, because it’s there, and it’s overflowing and abundant.”

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Last Updated: 1/31/14