Marion- Sometimes there are life-altering events that lead us to self-reflection and cause us to re-evaluate who we are and who we want to be. For Tiffany Sisk, that process started in 2020 when she became divorced, the COVID-19 pandemic began and schools went online. It was a year of great changes in her life. But it was those events that began a process of self-reflection that over time led her to enroll in the Adult High School at McDowell Tech, and it was receiving her high school diploma that ultimately led her to a better job and a better future.
“I was never satisfied that I hadn’t finished my high school diploma,” said Tiffany. “I knew I wanted change in my life.” During the pandemic, she was working as Assistant Manager at Quality Oil—The Gas House—on Rutherford Road, a job she held for three to four years. But she wanted more.
On March 22nd of this year, she took a leap of faith and enrolled in MTCC’s Adult High School. “My first day, I was super nervous, but as I walked in three students introduced themselves to me, which helped me calm down.” Within a week, she felt like she had known everyone forever and never looked back.
“I really did not think I would fit in like I did because I was a little older than most of the other students,” said Tiffany, who is thirty-one, slightly older than the teens and twenty-somethings who were in class with her. Her instructors, Bridget Burnette and Chris Walden, were extra helpful and made themselves available for questions and help, even after hours.
The classes she took helped Tiffany in other ways. Her personal finance class inspired her to eliminate her credit card debt using techniques she was learning in class. While doing a Biology class, she did a presentation in class on the integumentary system, which came in handy when she enrolled in a Nurse Aide (CNA) class after graduating from the program. “I am not a science person by any means—never have been. But that being said, I truly enjoyed taking that Biology class. It was definitely my favorite. I impressed my CNA class later on with fun facts I learned in adult high school.”
Tiffany started a new job at Black Mountain Neuromedical Treatment Center on August 31, shortly after getting her adult high school diploma, and immediately enrolled in CNA (Nurse Aide) class. She has now completed that class and will be sitting for her two state CNA exams over the next several days, finishing on November 7. If she passes, which she fully expects to do, she will move from CNA student at work to regular Certified Nursing Assistant—CNA.
Eventually, Tiffany hopes to be a Hospice Nurse and has a newfound confidence that she’ll get there one day. “I learned my self-worth in Adult High School and in my CNA class. Of the 9 students who finished our CNA program, I had the highest grade point average.”
She is already getting some experience with end-of-death issues, as she and another CNA student recently helped a regular employee bathe a patient who had died and prepare their body for transport. “It was not enjoyable, but I had sat with the patient prior to death, and it was meaningful to be able to do this.” She is thankful that her employer made this experience available to her.
Tiffany’s kids—two girls and a boy, ages 9, 10 and 11—are super-excited that she went back to school and have encouraged her to “walk” in graduation ceremonies next May, which she plans to do. Her only regret is that she didn’t go back to school sooner.
“If someone is considering whether to go back to school themselves, I would tell them to put themselves out there and do it. They’ll be glad they did. The adult high school gave me the boost of confidence I needed in my life and helped me discover my self-worth. It showed me that the sky is my limit and I can do whatever I put my mind to,” she said. Financially, the new job she got as a result of getting her diploma was a $2.00 per hour raise, which helps immensely with raising three kids.
Put simply: Better job. Better future.
What’s more, she made lots of new friends in the Adult High School program at McDowell Tech. “The teachers in Adult High School are great and I still text them from time-to-time to update them on my progress, and I still message the friends I made in class to check and see how they are. I will always be grateful to McDowell Tech and my instructors. I cannot thank them enough for helping me make a huge accomplishment in my life. I am a high school graduate now—at 31!”
“Tiffany is the perfect example of how MTCC can help create a better future for your family,” said Dr. Brian S. Merritt, MTCC President. “We are educating citizens in our community to help them get better jobs and achieve family-sustaining wages. We know that when we help Tiffany and her classmates build better futures, we are also supporting workforce development and a healthy economy throughout our region, which benefits us all.”
For information on how you can enroll in McDowell Tech’s Adult High School Program, call Ed King at 828-659-6001, ext. 160, or visit mcdowelltech.edu and find the “College & Career Readiness” button.