Ruth Sluser’s thirty-five-year teaching career has encompassed serving at-risk and special education students, and administering programs for teenage mothers. Devoting herself to helping those with special needs to help themselves, she made a practical difference in the lives of many young women, providing the vision to see a high-risk person as a successful graduate and member of the work force. She inspired her charges to find appropriate career paths and remain goal-oriented, despite the many obstacles they encountered.
Through the Cal Learn program, Sluser provided guidance to teenage mothers and pregnant teens attempting to complete their high school education and enroll in vocational programs designed for economic independence. She mentored at least a dozen girls at any given time, seeing each one at least weekly. She arranged parenting classes, nutrition workshops, counseling sessions and transportation, celebrating their success and teaching them how to solve adult problems with patience.
She is remembered by one of her students as, “The first adult who really listened to me and helped me feel I was worth something.” Many of the young women she helped stayed in touch and sought her counsel, wisdom and wit. She attributed her success to her mother, who returned to work to provide the financial support for Sluser to complete both BS and MS degrees at the University of Illinois. After retiring from teaching, she continued to administer the Cal Learn program and serve the needs of young women, offering tough love, guidance and support.