Tri-County Student Says Degree Will Turn her Life Around
CONTACT: LISA GARRETT, 646-1506
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 10/29/2008
(By Lisa Garrett)
PENDLETON --- It was the summer of 2000 and Joy Apperson’s life was falling apart. Devastating events were occurring on the heels of each other. Her oldest child, Lyric, born prematurely, was diagnosed with several health problems, including seizures and hydrocephalus (excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain). Her son, Moss, born just 16 months later, also was suffering seizures. Apperson learned that she was pregnant with twins only to miscarry one of the fetuses in her first trimester. Her husband couldn’t deal with the children’s health problems and abandoned the family in 2003. Her mother came up in the fall of 2005 from New Mexico to help out, only to learn by Thanksgiving that she had stage 4B uterine cancer and died within a month of the diagnosis. Every time Apperson thought life couldn’t get any worse, she was blindsided by yet another tragedy.
“I just wasn’t making it – emotionally or financially,” remembers Apperson. “I was at the end of my rope. I was alone and wasn’t able to work. Lyric had emergency brain surgery in January and later Moss was hospitalized for epilepsy. At one point, I had two children in the hospital and was living between the two floors.”
She was 33 years old, suddenly single, scared and raising small children alone, with no income. Just three years before she had been happily married and the lead singer in a Christian rock band traveling the country giving concerts and later a music and drama teacher in the Aiken schools.
It’s been a long and bumpy road, littered with sadness and setbacks, but today Apperson is back on track, still living an extremely hectic life but without the chaos. “I just take life one day at a time,” she said.
Following her mother’s death, she moved from Aiken to Seneca, where her sister and brother-in-law were living. “With the loss of our mother, they were my only family left so I moved to be close to them,” she said. Her sister’s friend told her about a job opening at Cotton Quality Research Station, a division of the USDA, as a student physical science technician. The deal was, to gain full-time employment, she must take the math and textile courses necessary to get a degree.
Since she already had a music degree from the University of South Carolina, the first college she looked at was Clemson University. She quickly realized she couldn’t afford the tuition and the class schedule didn’t complement her work schedule. Apperson admits to initially balking at attending a community college. “I was hesitant to enroll at Tri-County Technical College. I thought, I have a four-year degree so that would be a step back. Frankly, I was frustrated and I was embarrassed. But I figured I wouldn’t have to crack a book. Boy, was I wrong,” she said. “It’s not easy but it’s also not impossible. This degree from Tri-County is going to turn my life around.”
Her financial worries were lifted when she qualified for lottery tuition assistance and received a J.E. Sirrine Textile Foundation scholarship. Life began to settle down. Things were looking up.
“At first, going to Tri-County was a have-to situation. Now I wouldn’t go anywhere else. And three-quarters of the reason is my instructor and department head, Stan Compton. Tri-County has an excellent Industrial Supervision department, and I’m getting the math and textile knowledge I need. He’s the best teacher I’ve ever had. He is good at relaying information on a level that you can understand and apply.
“He knows I’m a single mom, with three kids, one of whom is disabled (Lyric was diagnosed with autism in 2006). I work full time and I go to school. He works with me. Tri-County accommodates my work and life schedule. Stan makes college possible. There’s no way I could do this if he wasn’t who he is. This has been the best educational experience of my life.”
She’s already earned a Quality Assurance certificate and is working on another certificate, in addition to the Industrial Supervision degree. She maintains an A average.
“Attending Tri-County has been a collaborative, pleasant learning experience. I look forward to class every day,” she said. These days she’s not by herself -- she has Leo, a four-month-old German shepherd puppy, who is an assistance dog-in-training for Lyric. He spends days with Apperson at class and at work, getting socialized before he becomes Lyric’s constant companion. (SC law allows assistance dogs in training to be afforded the same rights as an assistance dog.)
“Leo will help Lyric to become more independent. This will give her the advantage of being the best she can be. Lyric has high anxiety levels and has a low interpretation of danger in the environment. That’s where Leo comes in. He serves as a buffer for the anxiety, which already has affected her life on a major level. The dog gives comfort and keeps her safe. He reduces the anxiety in her and me. I equate Lyric as being a helium balloon and Leo being the string, keeping her safe and present. He gives me peace of mind.” After the socialization period with Apperson, as Leo gets older, he will go through intense training to include seizure alert training. Eventually he will go with Lyric to school and learn her routes and help her to interpret her environment.
Apperson says the last decade has been a lesson in humility.
“Things that were important, like playing and performing music, are now on the sidelines. It’s not about me right now. Honestly, I had no idea I could do all of this. And I couldn’t do it without an awesome boss and incredible teachers at Tri-County,” she said.
“Joy is an inspiration to the entire class,” said Compton. “As a faculty member, I believe that helping her, or any other sincere student for that matter, to work through some of life’s obstacles is never a burden. Joy and Leo, who is now a full-fledged class member, bring a unique aspect to the class that makes all of us richer for the experience.”