Luz Middleton is graduating from Tidewater Community College for the second time this December.
With her love of numbers, she had planned to be an accountant. But after earning an Associate of Science in Business Administration, she was questioning everything about her career choice.
“I struggled with every class the first time around. I got good grades but didn’t enjoy any of the work. It was just flat wrong for me,” she said.
Fast forward two years, and Middleton, age 23, is preparing to put on her blue cap and gown again. This time she is earning her Associate of Science in Social Sciences.
A TCC work-study student, she was working in the Cedar Room, the one-stop shop for student services at the Chesapeake Campus, when her passion was ignited.
“I really enjoyed helping struggling students find answers to problems. To be that shoulder to lean on. It was a wake-up call for me,” she said.
Middleton now plans a career as a social worker and will transfer to Old Dominion University to study sociology or counseling. “I know what discouragement feels like and what it’s like to struggle,” she said.
The road to higher education was a bumpy one for Middleton. A first-generation college student, she worked two jobs in high school to help her family pay the bills. The trend continued while she earned her first college degree.
“Luz has such a giving spirit and there is something inside her that is greater than any obstacle that she may face,” said James Edwards, dean of student services at Chesapeake Campus.
Luz Middleton in her own words
Pell grants helped her pay for college. “I have six siblings and money was super tight. My parents were strict about school because they saw education as my ticket out,” she said.
The struggle made her stronger and shaped her future. “I didn’t see anything wrong with a community college. And I found out that it teaches you a lot about yourself,” Middleton said.
She credits Linda Williams and Brenda Gibbs as her most inspiring and motivating professors.
“I loved every bit of my classes the second time. It was not a headache to do the work,” she said.
A native Spanish speaker, Middleton helped others gain working language skills by joining the Spanish Club. She was also involved with Student Government Association.
During her time at TCC, Middleton married her high school sweetheart, Dexter Middleton, an Air Force veteran. Dexter will join the student body ranks this spring and plans to study automotive technology.
Middleton encourages students to respond to that gut feeling if they want to change their degree, or follow a new path.
“I know that this is my gift, what I’m here for. I’m excited to see where it takes me,” she said.