Alumna Tiffany Rogers Departs College February 1 to Pursue Next Act in Life
Date: February 1, 2023
Contact: Lisa Garrett, firstname.lastname@example.org
(By Lisa Garrett)
Alumna Tiffany Rogers Departs College February 1 to Pursue Next Act in Life
PENDLETON, SC – Tiffany Rogers has spent 25 years – half of her life – at Tri-County Technical College (TCTC), first as a student in 1997, 10 years as a tutor and for the past decade as the support specialist and advocate for under-resourced students in the Connect to College and I-BEST programs.
“I quickly came to love this college, the instructors, the staff, and the students. Before I even graduated, I was working with under-resourced students in TRIO programs (which are designed to provide academic and motivational support to first-generation and income-eligible students who might otherwise have found higher education beyond their reach) and receiving a TCTC paycheck. That was how it all began,” said Rogers, whose last day at her alma mater will be February 1.
She will depart the College to pursue the next act in her life, and she admits it will be a “bittersweet” moment to leave a home-away-from-home with students and co-workers she has come to consider a second family, serving as “mentors, colleagues, teachers, comical relief, confidants, leaders, team members, and friends. They inspired me in many ways and contributed to my growth through all the years,” Rogers said.
“I will miss many things, but I am moving on to new experiences and have high hopes for learning as much as I can about the world I haven’t seen yet. I will be traveling and learning new things about life.”
She can’t disconnect entirely, she said, because her passion has always been the students with whom she feels a deep connection because she often sees herself in many of them, who have struggled with issues in school and life. Throughout the years, in every role at TCTC, she served as a positive support system for students.
Raised by her mother, in a “harsh environment,” she left home at 17 after dropping out of high school in the 11th grade. Despite being a high-level academic achiever who was enrolled in AP Biology and English classes, she said her home life derailed much of her successes and her self-esteem. After dropping out of school in January she received her GED the following month. In March she entered Greenville Technical College and enrolled in general education classes. Looking for acceptance and love, Rogers admits she made some bad choices in terms of her lifestyle and relationships. For a short time, she was homeless after finally breaking free from an abusive relationship.
Rogers moved in with her sister. She found her footing and secured a job at NCR in Liberty where she excelled. But the old lifestyle temptations surfaced and disrupted her plans again.
Determined to get on track, she applied to TCTC and enrolled in five classes. At 24, she was finally enjoying life in a non-threatening atmosphere -- and succeeding. She credits faculty members and work study supervisors who served as role models and support systems for her.
During her second year at TCTC, she gave birth to Bethany, her daughter, now 23, and began her life as a single parent. With help from SHARE, church, Job Training Partnership Act, Pell grants, the Homemakers and Single Parents club at TCTC, and scholarships, she was back in school and supporting herself and her small daughter. She juggled school and parenting while maintaining two, three and sometimes four part-time jobs to make ends meet for her and her daughter. “Since the age of 15, I never worked less than 35 hours a week,” she said. “Everything I did was to give my daughter the life she deserved - to not look like my life had.”
Rogers did all of this while maintaining As and Bs, which earned her a place on the TCTC Dean’s List and an invitation her senior year to join Alpha Zeta Beta, TCTC’s chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society.
She also was nominated by a faculty member for the prestigious Don C. Garrison Scholarship which honors TCTC’s former president.
Receiving her associate degree in Accounting in 2001 was the first graduation she had ever attended and to this day remains a memorable and proud moment especially because her maternal grandmother, father and daughter were there to witness the momentous occasion.
“It was the happiest day! Naysayers had told me as a single mom I would never graduate, that I wouldn’t be able to do it. My response was always, ‘Watch me. I showed them that I can and will.’”
In 2004 she bought her first house as a single mom while attending Clemson University where she received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 2007 through student loans, Pell and need-based grants and a community service grant.
From 2002 until 2011 she worked with SSS in the tutoring lab, tutoring students in accounting, math, business and language arts. She became a national certified tutor in 2003 and received the SSS Outstanding Service Award in 2007.
Michelle Cater, a 2009 TCTC Accounting graduate who received tutoring services from Rogers through SSS, said, “Tiffany made me a better student because she challenged me and that prepared me for my job as administrative coordinator for the Parks and Recreation department at Clemson University. Tiffany is amazing and has been a huge asset for Tri-County. It will be hard to replace her,” said Cater.
In the fall of 2021, Rogers landed a full-time job at TCTC as a support specialist for Connect to College (C2C) which was designed to meet the diverse needs of area students by offering academically capable youth between the ages of 17 and 20 the opportunity to simultaneously earn their high school diploma and college credit, up to and including a postsecondary credential. The first of its kind in South Carolina, C2C is a program for students who, for a variety of reasons, have faced difficult challenges in traditional high school environments.
In 2018, the C2C program transitioned into the I-BEST program which is designed to increase the College’s focus on unemployed and underemployed populations.
The C2C and I-BEST students appreciate the fact that Rogers has traveled their road and can identify with their struggles – and their victories.
Others whom she has tutored and mentored agree with Cater - they couldn’t have done it without her.
Katelyn Rodriguez says she often thinks about where she would be without TCTC and its Connect to College program and specifically Rogers. Rodriguez completed the C2C program in 2015 while seven months pregnant. She was accepted to USC-Aiken and graduated with a degree in sociology in 2021. Before deciding to become a stay-at-home mom, she was a victim’s advocate for the Cumbee Center in Aiken.
“It’s hard to put into words all that Tiffany did for me because it was more than just my educational needs,” said Rodriguez. When she was feeling overwhelmed with personal or academic dilemmas, she said conversations with Rogers helped to work through the difficulties. “I will be forever grateful for her mentorship. She always made me feel like I could do this. She boosted my confidence and calmed me. She is an amazing woman,” said Rodriguez.
“My time at TCTC changed my life,” she said. “I’ve realized with the right path, the right people and the right program, anybody can turn it around. I’m a living example,” said Rodriguez, who made the Dean’s List and the President’s List at USC-Aiken.
“Without Tiffany, specifically, I don’t know if I would have gone on to earn my bachelor’s degree,” she added. Even though Rogers is retiring, Rodriguez says she will keep in touch. “I will check in with her for life. She has built a lifelong friendship with me.”
Kayla Zacher, who received her high school diploma through C2C in 2018, and met her husband, Logan, an I-BEST student, at TCTC, said Carpenter has been a big influence in their lives. “She was the best support person in my lifetime. She encouraged both of us when we didn’t feel like we could go on. It made it easier having her there. She made sure we stayed on track and never let us down.”
“Tiffany was a huge part of my journey in education and I could not thank her enough for that,” said Lily Kuhner, a graduate of the I-BEST program and who will graduate with an associate degree in Nursing in the fall. “The I-BEST program truly sparked my interest in health care and if it wasn’t for Tiffany, I would not be on this path today,” said Kuhner.
In her first two terms working in C2C, Rogers was the recipient of the Wings Award, given by the students. In 2017 she received a third Wings award, this time from her daughter, who graduated through the program.
“There are so many success stories and I know I made a difference in their lives. I love to watch them grow and succeed. I was a high school dropout so I see myself in them. I also learn from then as well,” Rogers said.
“All of these relationships have been very personal as I served as a mentor and even guidance counselor and life coach. I’ve always been teaching and creating learning spaces, working to accommodate all learning styles and their academic needs. I never just checked the box at work,” said Rogers.
Rogers gave a special shout out to Diana Walter, former director of C2C, who hired her as a support specialist for the program. “Diana was willing to give me an opportunity that took me from a job to a career. I have always been grateful to her for that.”
Rogers plans to enter semi-retirement with renovating her home at the top of her list. She also plans to travel the cross country via RV. “I will likely continue to help people in some capacity, since that is what I do,” she said.
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.