McMINNVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — LeGrand Sommers is a robotics field service engineer. It’s a job he said he’d never have a chance at without Tennessee Reconnect.

The program is an initiative by the state government that allows Tennesseans 23 and older to return to school or go for the first time to receive an associate or technical degree, tuition-free.

“As COVID hit, I didn’t even have a place of my own. I was in Cookeville, and I mean, I was living in a tiny home in the middle of a field,” Sommers said. “I had spent every penny I had, I had no money left.”

Then, he found a way to reconnect.

“It saved my butt,” Sommers said. “I got through school in the two years it took, flat, and here I am.”

As of May, he’s a graduate of Motlow State Community College. In fact, hundreds go to school each year thanks to the Reconnect grant.

“It changes people’s lives,” said Larry Flatt, Motlow State Executive Director of Robotics. “What a great feeling it is when we have individuals who might not have the opportunity to go back to school.”

It’s not just at Motlow, but across the state.

“Without that skill set, you’re still going to be working for a wage that may not allow you to have a sustainable lifestyle,” Flatt said.

Degrees open doors for people like Sommers, though he says he wouldn’t change a thing.

“I wouldn’t go back and change that part,” he said. “But I definitely wouldn’t go back and want to be brushing my teeth out of somebody’s hose in the backyard.”

Now, Sommers works for Universal Robots, a company based in Denmark. He plans on going back to school once again to get his Bachelor’s degree in engineering since his company offers tuition assistance.