Larry Lehna

2014 Educating through Experience


Larry Lehna has had many experiences in his 64 years, which the aspiring writer shares through short stories to educate others.

If there is something Larry hasn’t done, he will for a better understanding—for both himself and for others.

And that’s what makes him a Difference Maker.

For a UM-Dearborn narrative competition, he spent the night in a homeless shelter to better tell the story. The result: First place in both Narrative Non-Fiction and Writing in the Public Sphere categories.

Those wins gave Larry the confidence to take something he always enjoyed—writing—and turn it into a professional outlet.

Now with published works in the Metro Times, Quail Bell Magazine and a Norton Publishing textbook, Larry said his purpose is to share lessons he’s learned with others.

“I found that my best work was when I told the stories of my life. I've made many bad decisions in my life and I’m the first to admit my mistakes,” Larry said, noting that he’s turned his life around after many hardships like an arrest, losing people close to him and overcoming the fear of starting over. “My young classmates then realize that no matter how bad you mess up in life there is always a chance for redemption. It is never too late to follow your dream and to excel.”

Larry graduated in December 2014 with a 3.96 GPA and was awarded a Chancellor’s Medallion.

He said SOAR, a campus organization for people returning to academia after a hiatus of several years, gave him the confidence to earn his bachelor’s degree. And to assist other adults in finding their calling, Larry—who had a 40-year span between his college experiences—has volunteered extensively with SOAR. “I’ve talked with many aspiring non-traditional students and assured them that college was still an option.”

Larry said when he looked at returning to school as one of the ways to turn his life around, he didn’t know what to expect. But with the kindness shown to him and the fond memories he has made, he wants to pay it forward.

“Every one of those people will be a treasured friend for the rest of my life.”