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Tensia Huddleston, right, graduated summa cum laude from Roane State. Her aunt, Norma Asher, said Roane State’s faculty and staff were instrumental in Huddleston’s success.
One letter made Tensia Huddleston’s dream come true.
It’s a simple letter, lead-off hitter for the alphabet, easy to draw. Just turn a V upside down and connect the legs.
For Huddleston, though, the letter marked years of hard work and struggle.
Huddleston, a 2014 Roane State Community College graduate, has cerebral palsy. From elementary school through high school, math was particularly difficult for her. When Huddleston started at Roane State in 2008, she had to begin in developmental math courses, the lowest possible level.
In May, Huddleston finished college with her degree in general technology and with something she never thought she’d see – an A in probability and statistics.
“It was like a dream come true,” she said. “You never think it’s going to happen.”
How Huddleston got her A, and her degree, highlights the advantage of community colleges. Huddleston took most of her classes at the college’s Campbell County campus, an intimate setting where students know faculty and staff on a first-name basis. For Huddleston, that connection was crucial to her success.
“It made all the difference in the world,” Huddleston said. “At this campus, it's easier to make connections with your teachers, to get to know them and for them to get to know you. It makes it easier to learn. They know you. They know what problems you might have, and what you might be struggling with.”
Campus director Tracy Powers and Jeff Snell with Roane State’s Counseling, Career, and Disability Services office worked with Huddleston to help her build a class schedule that fit her needs.
“Jeff managed to isolate the math classes so when she had math, she had nothing else,” said Norma Asher, Huddleston’s aunt. “Had it not been for Jeff and Tracy, I do not think Tensia would have been able to get the degree.”
For her final math class, probability and statistics, Huddleston had Tressa Murphy. Murphy, Huddleston said, “opened everything up for me” and helped her grasp the concepts.
Huddleston earned an A and finished Roane State with a 3.9 GPA. On graduation day, Huddleston proudly wore her Phi Theta Kappa stole, the mark of the honor society for two-year colleges.
“Faith and prayer played the biggest part in helping me get to where I am now,” Huddleston said. “If God had not shown me the way, and put so many helpful people in my life, I would never have succeeded.”
Huddleston hopes to work as a teaching assistant. While she is relieved to finish school, she said she’ll miss being on campus and seeing her teachers.
“I started out in 2008, very young, very nervous,” she said. “As I went through all the classes, it changed me without me even realizing it. My thoughts changed. I became more open to things. I guess the more I learned in my classes, the more I learned about the world, about myself. It matured me as a person. It's not an easy thing to explain."
"I have enjoyed it here. I know I need to leave, but I kind of wish I could still stay. I'd like to take some classes again just to see the teachers, and that's a personal connection you can't put a price on. You learn a lot in college, but you also make social connections. I have made a lot of friends here."
Tennessee’s Community Colleges is a system of 13 colleges offering a high-quality, affordable, convenient and personal education to prepare students to achieve their educational and career goals in two years or less. All colleges in the system offer associate degree and certificate programs, workforce development programs and transfer pathways to four-year degrees. For more information, please visit tncommunitycolleges.org.