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Press Release                                                                                        

Date: March 6, 2023

Contact: Lisa Garrett, lgarrett@tctc.edu

By Lisa Garrett

Alumna Hailey Thrasher Thrived Academically and Personally at TCTC

PENDLETON, SC – Hailey Thrasher says she was fortunate to have multiple role models when she was a student at Tri-County Technical College 10 years ago.  

“I established a rapport with instructors who cared about me.  It really makes a difference for students who need it most,” said Thrasher, now 28, who received an associate in arts degree in 2016 and recently completed a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Jacksonville University.

She remembers being ambivalent about entering college back in 2014. Despite being placed in gifted and talented classes in high school, Thrasher said she didn’t feel challenged and dropped out of school in the 10th grade. She struggled personally as she dealt with her parents’ divorce and her mother’s diagnosis of Crohn’s disease. “Everything came crashing down and I was spinning my wheels,” she said. 

The eldest of three, she was 15 when her parents separated and she and her siblings lived with their mother who was searching for treatments for Crohn’s. As a result, Thrasher became the caretaker for her mother (who is now is remission) and her brother and sister.

In 2013 she received her GED just months before enrolling at TCTC.  “I chose TCTC so I could be close to my mom. I didn’t know what I wanted to study. I was taking prerequisite courses and just wanted to find my footing.  It wasn’t long before I realized that I had forgotten how much I loved learning,” she said.  

“I found supportive instructors and a quality education. It isn’t often that those things come together in one setting. It was a breath of fresh air to be seated next to diverse groups of students with different mindsets and world experiences,” she added.

Thrasher began to thrive academically and personally. She was named the outstanding social sciences student in 2015 and was president of the Alpha Zeta Beta (AZB) honor society, TCTC’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa.

“It really was bittersweet to graduate,” she said.

She wanted to study art and applied to several Ivy League colleges. She asked art history instructor and mentor Jesse Morgan if he would write letters of recommendation to School of the Art Institute of Chicago and School of Visual Arts in New York and Columbia University.

She was accepted to all three.

“I really wanted to go but there’s not much financial aid offered for transfer students and I didn’t have the finances to fund myself so I deferred admission to Columbia,” she said. She was selected as a semi-finalist for the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship, but in the end, she said it came down to lack of finances. “They didn’t hold my spot at Columbia which was heartbreaking,” she said.

She sought advice from Morgan who asked her if she had ever thought about teaching.

“He was very integral in my decision making.  I appreciated the balance of academic and creative side of teaching,” said Thrasher.

“Upon meeting Hailey, it was evident that she has a remarkable gift for communications, with an eye for not only encouraging others, but also seeking out opportunities in which to expand her own personal skills,” said Morgan. “Hailey was always willing to go the extra mile to overcome obstacles in order to reach her goals,” he said. 

“I noticed very early that she had a remarkable aptitude for creating and studying art. Hailey took her role as a student seriously and was passionate about the high standards she had set for herself.  Hailey’s drive was evident whether working with her one on one or in a group setting,” he added.  

Thrasher later enrolled at Jacksonville University where she received a BFA in art illustration in 2020. After graduating she moved back to Anderson and began working at Calhoun Academy for the Arts as an academic interventionist.  It was a good experience, she said of the 2022 – 2023 year.  Last August she gave birth and resigned to begin work on her master’s in special education. She has been accepted to Lander University’s online program.

“If I hadn’t started at TCTC I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she said.  “When I dropped out of high school, I had no dreams, no aspirations, no trajectory.  At TCTC I forged relationships and began to try different things. I found the path to art.  I discovered things I didn’t know about myself.  I was shy and introverted.  I didn’t know I was competitive. I learned how to step outside my comfort zone.”

Her long-term plan is to teach K-12 special education.

“Hailey remains one of the most extraordinary students I have ever taught,” said Lara Wrightson, TCTC social sciences instructor. “She has amazing critical-thinking skills which help with communicating so effectively. She stands out because she has so much potential and I’m excited to see where she will go. Her contributions will be significant.”

Amy Borders, English instructor who also serves as faculty advisor for TCTC’s AZB chapter, said, “Hailey was extremely driven in her role as president of AZB.  She was everything you would want and expect as president.  She was a high achiever, she was prepared and involved in volunteerism. She took the role seriously.  I knew she would be successful in her future endeavors.”

Adds Morgan, “As an instructor I continue to have a deep respect for Hailey and her work ethic as well as her ability to dedicate herself to each project she undertakes.” 


About Tri-County Technical College

Tri-County Technical College, a public two-year community and technical college serving Anderson, Oconee and Pickens Counties in South Carolina, enrolls more than 9,000 students annually and offers more than 70 major fields of study, including computer technology, industrial electronics, mechatronics, nursing, and university transfer programs. Tri-County boasts the highest student success rate among two-year colleges in the state and ranks in the top one percent nationally for successful student transfers to four-year colleges and universities. To learn more, visit tctc.edu.