There is No Time Like the Present

July 27, 2017 | | Student Success

christy cartwright and sons

Christy Cartwright, a 44-year-old single mom of four sons from Dunlap, Tennessee, made a decision that changed her life forever and for the better. She returned to school to finish her degree at Chattanooga State Community College.  

Rewind for a moment… 

In the fall of 1991, after graduating high school, Christy began studying Criminal Justice offered through a partnership program between Chattanooga State and Cleveland State in May 1992, Christy got married and had her first son in October of 1993. Due to these major life changes, she quit school and settled into her new role. Before she knew it, she began making excuses for herself and the many reasons why she could not return.  

She spent 14 years as a stay-at-home mom. 

“My husband was an officer in the military and we moved around a lot, “she recalls. 

Another excuse. 

When her youngest son began kindergarten, she entered the workforce to help with insurance.  

Then a divorce came, as did the growing list of excuses.  

“Following my divorce, I felt like I needed to spend that time with my kids and there were also other family obligations to take care of.  However, I knew it was time for a change as my youngest son turned 16 and was now driving,” says Christy.  

Last year, she finally made the choice to return to school.  

“When I returned, I realized I only needed 24 credit hours to complete my degree. I took Speech, Mythology, Religions of the World, Environmental Science I and II and two humanities courses,” says Christy. “I was able to study online while working full-time as a secretary at Conditioned Heating and Cooling of Dunlap. I graduated this past May with an associate degree in General Studies.” 

She mostly credits her sons and family, as well as her family friend Debbie Adams of Chattanooga State, for giving her the encouragement to finish her degree. For starters, her sons gave her two books to read: Relentless, written by Michael Jordan’s legendary trainer, Tim S. Grover and The Law of Attraction by Michael Lousier. 

“As far as I am concerned, if it weren’t for my children encouraging me and making me read these two books, I would not have gone back. Looking back, my hesitation in returning was due to having a lack of confidence in myself. However, the symptoms were my excuses that I kept making,” confesses Christy. 

Taking care of people has been something that has always come naturally to Christy. Motherhood has helped cultivate this natural attribute. Since graduation, she has been in the process of making big plans for herself. She and a friend are opening a concierge business, The Pink Butler. The business will serve the busy citizens of Dunlap and surrounding areas by giving them a helping hand with their never-ending to-do lists.  

There are many others in Tennessee that find themselves in similar situations like Christy. Governor Haslam established the Drive to 55 in 2013. Its sole purpose was to increase the number of Tennesseans with a college degree or certificate to 55 percent by the year 2025. TN Reconnect Act, funded through a $10 million-dollar lottery allotment once it is fully executed, is an extension of the Drive to 55. This grant gives adults age 24 and above a chance to attend community college tuition–free at no cost to the taxpayers. There are some basic requirements that a perspective student must meet to be eligible. For example, the student must not already have an associate or bachelor’s degree, must be a Tennessee resident for at least one year and must participate in an advising program. Upon acceptance, the student can receive the last-dollar scholarship that will pay the remaining tuition balance once any other financial aid has been applied. In order to keep the scholarship, they must be continually enrolled in credit or certificate classes and maintain a 2.0 GPA.  

If you are an adult that is considering returning, it is important to heed Christy’s hard-learned advice…“There is no time like the present.” 

For further information about Chattanooga State or Tennessee Reconnect, please visit the website or contact Adult Services by phone at 423-697-4753.  

By Hannah Baker, 2017 ChattState Graduate, Marketing Intern