After becoming a young mother, Tawny Tanner didn’t feel like higher education was an option for her. Between working full-time and raising a family, her plate was full — and then some. At the time, pursuing her education would require an overwhelming amount of time and money she didn’t have access to. Now, 20 years later, Tawny is writing a new story.
During the pandemic, Tawny began helping her daughter navigate virtual schooling. While walking her daughter through her homework and seeing the smile on her face after reaching a breakthrough, Tawny’s passion for teaching young children was reinvigorated.
“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher my whole life. I love helping people learn and discover new things. I’m a helper.”
Once she was reminded of her dream job, she decided to take the proper steps to make it a reality – and affordable. While applying for financial aid, Tawny received word that she qualified for something called G3. Offered at all 23 of Virginia’s Community Colleges, G3 covers tuition and fees for individuals living in Virginia who qualify for state financial aid with a household income that’s less than $100,000.
“I really didn’t know much about what it was or how I qualified for it,” said Tawny. “All I knew was that it was for early childhood development, and it worked perfectly with my financial needs.” The G3 grant helped her with her books, tuition, and anything she needed school-wise.
“Before G3, pursuing a degree would mean a bill not getting paid or my child having to go without something. No one should have to choose between their education and the well-being of their family.”
Looking back on her journey, Tawny credits G3 for where she is today. Since September 2022, she has worked at a preschool teaching two and three-year-olds with disabilities. Her dream is to be the lead teacher in her very own classroom soon.
For working students like Tawny, the flexibility that comes with online classes is priceless. “I read a lot about Virginia Western Community College’s early education program and felt I could do it because the classes were virtual. I didn’t have to make a commitment to come to campus because I am a mother and I do work, so it was the perfect opportunity.” Virtual learning accommodates more learners, improves mental health and saves time. Through the G3 program, students can blend their learning environment to exactly what works for them.
“My husband’s schedule can be unpredictable, so the fact that all my classes were virtual Zoom classes allowed me to just log on at home and know my family is safe and cared for. I don’t have to rush across town, it just helps so much.”
Within the first year of pursuing her education, Tawny was already on the path to a successful career. She learned something new every week and felt fulfilled and happy. Her passion was evident and shortly after beginning her studies, she was offered a job.
“I was in the middle of a student teaching class where I had to observe a child and the staff saw my potential and offered me a job in the other pre-K classroom. Of course, I accepted it and I’m still on cloud nine about it. Most days, I go in just so happy.”
Tawny’s classes prepared her well for the working world and allowed her to walk into her first job after G3 fully prepared. “I would learn a lesson one night and the next day, I’d try that trick in the classroom and it worked.”
Now that she’s gone through the program and has come out the other side, Tawny feels more confident in herself and her abilities. She also feels more motivated to continue pursuing higher education. “When I’m done with my associate degree, I’m going to pursue my bachelor’s in special education.”
Tawny’s biggest lesson and most valuable piece of advice from the last year is that although the path may not always be easy, it is always possible. “There are going to be days where you have a lot of schoolwork, your family needs you and you have to show up and perform for your actual job – but it’s always worth it.”
If you’d like to see if you’re eligible for G3 tuition assistance, contact your local community college to get started.