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Links scholar learns knowledge is power

Janet Hairston, who will graduate from Tidewater Community College in May with her Associate of Science in Social Sciences, spent most of her 20s, 30s and 40s on the streets of Norfolk doing drugs, alcohol and living a party lifestyle that eventually cost her everything. “I lost my car, my job, my place to stay and myself,” she says.

Janet Hairston

Hairston’s cousin, who was on the streets with her, found her way out of the lifestyle with God’s help. She then made it her mission to rescue Janet.

“She would come find me wherever I was every Saturday and take me to church. Sometimes I’d hide from her, but she was relentless in her pursuit of my freedom,” Hairston adds.

On New Year’s Eve 2003, Hairston was in church when the pastor prayed for people with addictions. It made an impact. “I went home with plans to consume a 12-pack and do my drugs. But I couldn’t do it. Soon after, I stopped altogether.”

Finding her place included continuing her education. “I always dreaded school, and I was not prepared for college,” Hairston says. “But once I decided to go back to school, TCC was there, helping me ramp up to the college level. There were good days and bad days, and I cried a lot because it was so hard.”

Hairston attributes her success to sheer determination and the support services offered by the college, including the Open Door Project and various tutoring labs. “And to God, of course,” she says. “I can do all things with Him.”

Hairston graduates this May with an associate degree in social science. She was selected as a Links scholar for Norfolk State University and will begin pursuing her bachelor’s in social work this fall. “I love learning now because I’ve found that knowledge empowers me,” Hairston says.

Janet Hairston

Hairston has spent the last two semesters interning with Bon Secours’ hospice program. “My passion is the elderly and serving as an advocate for those who can’t speak for themselves,” Hairston says. “It’s been an amazing opportunity working with families to provide them with emotional and social support during difficult circumstances.”

Commencement will be a special day for Hairston’s mom, Sarah, who has supported her on this journey and will be in the stands cheering on May 8.

“I can’t wait to walk across that stage because I am more than ready to go to the next level,” Janet Hairston says. “I’ve learned that we really can do it – we can go anywhere.”

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