Tiffany Grigsby has worked hard to raise her two teenagers while studying public administration at NAU. And she became the first in her family to graduate from college—a personal breakthrough she hopes will have a lasting effect.
“I’m hoping it starts a ripple effect with my kids,” she said. “That they will get a college education, and my grandkids will, and their grandkids will. That they’ll see the importance of an education through my example.”
The Gold Axe award winner who lives in Phoenix is graduating with a degree in public administration that she hopes to apply to a job with a non-profit, like Phoenix Rescue Mission where she did her capstone project. NAU’s innovative 90/30 online program made her degree affordable.
“The 90/30 program allowed me to get 90 of my credits from the community college and helped save some money,” she said.
It’s not just a journey to your education. It’s a journey to yourself.
Tiffany also said her online courses provided her with an unexpected community.
“What’s been great in going to class online is in the forums and discussion boards I found other people in similar situations as me—single moms or older students returning, going through the same things. That was sort of surprising. There’s so many adults going back to school and the online platform really makes it available to us.”
She was also surprised by the personal attention she received.
“Everyone has been amazing, from my counselor to all the teachers. They’ve all been phenomenal at feedback, being involved, and staying connected. I’ve never once felt like a number with NAU. I felt like everyone is invested in me succeeding. I feel like I have a team of people supporting me.”
It hasn’t been easy. With full-time work and two teenagers, Tiffany had to carefully budget all her time. Every semester she created a spreadsheet to track every assignment. Her weekends were spent doing homework. But the hard work was worth it.
“It’s not just a journey to your education,” she said, “it’s a journey to yourself. You learn so much about who you are and what you’re capable of that you wouldn’t experience without going through this education.”
And in the process of watching their mom work hard to earn a degree, Tiffany’s kids have become her biggest cheerleaders. They will be at her side when she graduates.
Because she wasn’t a good student in high school, Tiffany was especially nervous about going back to school. But, she said, the process changed her.
“Before going back to school, I ran away when things got difficult or would postpone things. But I found this new sense of determination and dedication. Now I see problems or issues as challenges that have solutions. I’ve changed my mentality.”
She also found economic stability. As she progressed in her classes, she was promoted in her job.
“And that’s made it so we don’t necessarily live paycheck to paycheck anymore,” she said. “That’s been life-changing, to have a bit of freedom. It’s not that I make a ton of money. But it’s enough to provide a sense of security and peace of mind, just knowing we don’t have to worry about where our next meal is coming from.”