Hard times forced Linza Ford to drop out of college, but a $1 million lottery jackpot has revived her educational dreams.
The 19-year-old Brooklyn woman was one of 10 lucky New Yorkers who collected oversized checks Thursday totaling $13 million in lottery winnings.
Ford had just completed her freshman year at Hofstra University when her dad had to go on disability and her family was forced to make sacrifices.
With money tight, Ford put her goals of earning a degree in psychology or social work on hold and took a job at Best Buy to help make ends meet.
"I didn't want to leave," she said. "That's one of the colleges I really wanted to go to. I was sobbing."
But her sorrow turned to joy last month when she took a break from doing the laundry and bought a Million Dollar Scratch ticket at Prabhu Grocery Store near her Bensonhurst home.
"I did not believe it. I looked at it, I'm like 'No, no, not me,'" said Ford, who had been mulling joining the Air Force. "When I finished I went home and I showed my mom. I think she freaked out more than I did."
She immediately realized what her reversal of fortune meant.
"I didn't finish school, but now I can go back," said Ford, who will receive 20 annual payments of $50,000, or $31,152 after withholding.
"I don't know if I can get financial aid now," she joked.
New York Lottery spokesman Ralph Buckley doled out the ceremonial prizes at the Lottery's headquarters in Harlem to Ford and nine other new millionaires.
Michael Reitan, 31, of Rego Park, Queens, says he won't totally believe he won until he sees those extra zeros show up in his bank account.
Reitan is waiting before making any extravagant purchases.
"I'm not going to do anything yet. Once it's in my account, then I'll go shopping," said Reitan, a customer and border protection officer at JFK airport.
Reitan, whose winning scratch-off ticket guarantees him a gross of $260,000 for the rest of his life, will net $172,068 annually after tax.
"I'm 31 now, so hopefully I'll live until I'm 231," said the fortuitous bachelor, who plans to keep working.
"I've got 14 years until retirement. But I'm not going to do overtime ever again," said Reitan.
Reminiscing about the glorious moment that changed his life, Reitan said he was alone in his apartment when he scratched the ticket he bought at the Lucky Corner in Rego Park.
"They say when a tree falls in the forest it doesn't make a sound. I'll tell you when a lottery winner scratches it off by themselves, they make sounds," Reitan said.
While he's not rushing out to spend his winnings, Reitan does have his heart set on a few luxuries. A devoted Jets fan, he wants to buy tickets for the 2014 Super Bowl at MetLife stadium.
Other $1 million winners were Linda Dixon of the Bronx; George Osorio of the Bronx; Catherine and John Passarella of Brooklyn; Anthony Pallone of Brooklyn; Alexander Change of Manhattan; Brian Egan of Manhattan; and Kenneth Isaac of Queens.
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