Graduating high school with a 1.7 GPA, Stephanie Lawrence didn’t consider college. Neither parent had gone; in fact, her mother didn’t finish high school.
Instead, Lawrence enlisted in the Navy as a hospital corpsman, shelving the idea of further education for a military career and motherhood.
Eight years and five children later, Lawrence found herself honorably discharged and at a crossroads. She needed a direction and found it at Tidewater Community College.
The student speaker for the December commencement exercises, Lawrence graduates with an Associate of Science in General Studies with plans to continue her studies at the college and Old Dominion University. She will concurrently pursue her Associate of Applied Science in Nursing and a bachelor’s in nursing with an anticipated graduated date of December 2018.
“Nothing was going to stop me, not even the 60 I made on my first test,” said Lawrence, who will graduate with a 3.9 GPA debt-free, thanks to her GI Bill benefits.
Nothing came easily. Staying home all those years, Lawrence admits, “My brain was a mess. Staff at the Learning Assistance Center became almost family.” Professors, especially Michael Williams, who teaches anatomy and physiology, inspired her.
“He went beyond teaching in the classroom to step aside and tell me I have potential,” said Lawrence, who plans to be a nurse midwife.
English professor Nita Wood’s suggestion that Lawrence look up once in a while instead of staring at the ground resonated. “Now I hold my head up high and look around,” she said.
“I spent the majority of my time in the open labs for anatomy and physiology,” Lawrence said. “There were always resources at school to help me, and at home, I had my own cheerleaders.”
The biggest one was husband Brian, often the cook, and the supporting cast includes Dylan, 13; Dana, 12; Sarah, 10; Caroline, 8; and Rebecca, 6.
Lawrence used flash cards and added notes to her phone to make her homework portable enough so she didn’t have to miss Dylan’s baseball games, Caroline’s gymnastics meets and Rebecca’s soccer matches.
“I love that my children shared my enthusiasm of their mother returning to school,” said Lawrence, who has been active on TCC’s Portsmouth Campus. She is president of the Portsmouth Campus chapter of Phi Theta Kappa and a member of the Student Veterans Association, the Student Nurses Association and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.
Lawrence’s message to TCC’s graduates is a simple one: “We didn’t give up. We kept moving forward. Remember that with a goal, some determination and putting plans into action, you can achieve greatness.”