Sharonda Smith's mantra is "Don't settle for less - you will stay there." She knows firsthand what it feels like to settle for circumstances in life that may not fulfill a person's greatest potential. Employed as a waitress for more than 25 years, Sharonda works at Red Lobster and loves her job and her customers.
However, as she has gotten older, the work is hard on her body - standing on her feet for hours at a time - and she always wanted to go to college. Time off during the pandemic when the restaurant was closed gave her time to reflect on her goals and dreams of working in a professional career with daytime hours.
She knew there were many challenges ahead for her to reach the goal of going to college, but she was ready for the challenge and the change.
To start, Sharonda first had to complete her high school credits and earn a diploma. She started an accelerated GED program in April 2020 and received her high school diploma on May 27, 2020. Sharonda said it wasn't easy, but she never gave up.
"During my growing up years, I had a lot of reasons why school was not my focus," Sharonda said. "I did not have anyone in my life who had made education a priority, no role models. I just knew in my heart that one day I would reach my goal, that I was going to get there."
Sharonda had a baby while in high school and lost several family members through tragic deaths. She had no choice but to go to work to support her baby.
"Life happened, and years went by, but I knew I wanted to be my best self and be someone different than what my circumstances had dealt me," Sharonda said.
She found her answer at Texarkana College.
"I made an appointment with TC academic advisor, Kristen Payton, who helped me identify a field of study that would prepare me for a career in a business office environment," Sharonda said. "I have always loved working with and helping people, and she showed me a degree plan I could follow to achieve my goal."
Kristen said Sharonda's determination to success was evident from the first time they met.
"Sharonda was eager to start, but as the first person in her family to go to college, she needed a mentor to guide her," Kristen said.
"It was an eye-opening experience for her to see all the steps necessary for starting college. She was so grateful to find out that there would be support for her at TC every step of the way."
Part of every student's schedule at TC is a class called Learning Frameworks. It is designed to help students build confidence in their ability to tackle tough courses and to provide a cohort of students and a faculty mentor to turn to for support while at TC. Sharonda said the resources available at TC are incredible.
"I have a goal, and I am going to get there -
it is just later in life than what I had thought it would be," Sharonda said. "I'm going to keep pushing toward the finish line and hopefully complete my Associate of Arts in Business Administration in spring 2022."
(For more information about
starting college, go to texarkanacollege.edu or call 903-823-3012 to schedule an appointment with an academic advisor. )
(Suzy Irwin is director of public relations at Texarkana College. She can be reached at 903-244-1153 or 903-823-3095 or [email protected])