Life happens when you’re busy making plans. This is something Northampton Community College (NCC) alumni, Tiffani Blevins, knows all too well. After trying to complete a degree at several institutions, and facing many challenges along the way, Blevins’ determination and perseverance finally led to her graduation from NCC.
As a child, Blevins was interested in event planning after seeing how much happiness it brought to her mother, Edi, who worked as a corporate event planner. “I saw her love of that industry, and that’s where the passion began. She told me, ‘Doing this job, it’s like taking someone’s dreams and turning them into a tangible reality.’” Blevins followed in her mom’s footsteps and started working as a banquet server for events at the then Starwood Resorts in the Poconos, and she loved it.
Blevins post-secondary education first took her to DeVry University in 2006, where she studied hospitality and tourism. Her goal was to earn a four-year degree that could give her the skills she needed to grow in the industry. However, her grandfather had surgery that required someone to care for and look after him back home in Monroe County. Her grandfather was a pivotal part of her life, and she cared for him deeply. It was a no brainer. She had to call it quits after only one semester at DeVry.
After a few months off, Blevins went back to school locally and enrolled at East Stroudsburg University. She was hopeful, but after almost two semesters at her new institution, she knew she couldn’t sustain it. “I needed to work full-time and couldn’t afford to stay there.”
Blevins worked for a few years and had her first child, Jessica, who is now 15. Knowing she wanted to better herself and build a better future for her daughter, she tried again, this time at DeSales University. “It was too big of a time constraint going in person, and so, I thought about doing school online. I tried Southern New Hampshire University next,” she said, but it still didn’t provide enough flexibility for her hectic life.
“Of course, I always thought, ‘Oh, I’ll get back to college some time.’ Finally, in 2012, I felt my jobs weren’t going anywhere. I knew I needed some type of degree,” but she doubted it would work out, “I spent so much time in and out of school. I told my husband, Jonathan, and he encouraged me. I knew I needed to do it, and do it now.”
In early 2013, Blevins met with an advisor at NCC and realized with all the credits she accumulated at other institutions, she was very close to completing her associate’s degree in business administration. She thought, “I will have something to show for all my hard work in the past,” and so, elated, she started attending NCC.
She was so close to earning her degree at NCC when Blevins got some news that changed the course of her life yet again. She was pregnant. “With the timing, I was set to deliver towards the end of the final semester at the college; so, it should’ve worked out perfectly,” she assumed.
Her daughter came almost 8 weeks early, and Blevins gave birth in September of 2014. She had an honest conversation with herself and her husband. Her daughter was premature and in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU). “My final NCC class was in person that semester. I wasn’t going to be able to finish while I had this baby who needed me, and of course the rest of my family needed me, too.” But, her husband asked, “If you stop now, what are the odds of you going back to finish.” Those words echoed in her head.
Blevins spoke with her professor and explained her situation, and she was surprised to hear her professor say the same thing her husband did. “I felt like that was a sign that I needed to stay. She said, ‘We’re going to make this work.’ That meant the world to me.”
Nancy Shadlow, Blevins professor, saw her starting to check out with her mind elsewhere. “She motivated me and worked with me to ensure I had the time and flexibility to get assignments done, just like everyone else, but with a plan that assisted me in finishing.” Shadlow even let Blevins bring her baby to class one day after the baby came home from the hospital when the family didn’t have alternative childcare.
“I remember graduation day, January 2015, she looked at me in the hallway, and she said, ‘You did it.’ It was such a powerful moment for me. The importance of having professors that actually are invested in your success is tremendous. She could have thought, ‘It’s just another mom, and she has other things to attend to, other priorities,’ but she helped me stick it out and believed I could do it.”
Shadlow was Blevins communications professor, and now, the NCC grad has a communications role at HNL Lab Medicine. “I’d like to think that she invested in me and made me passionate about communication and how it influences people,” said Blevins.
Nine years later, Blevins is about to complete her bachelor’s in corporate communication with Penn State University. “I feel like I am in the right place. My boss motivated me to go back to school to continue building on my success.”
The one thing she wants others to take away from her experiences is to keep going. It took her 17 years to get a 4-year degree, but she never gave up on that dream. “I’m forever grateful to my mentors and supporters for seeing more in me than I could’ve seen in myself. Find those people who will lift you up to reach the stars.”