Virginia Hughes remembers entering class and realizing she could not leave as the person she had been before.
That is one of the many memories of the Pellissippi State Community College alumna, who graduated with a general associate’s degree in 2013. Hughes is working toward an anthropology degree at the University of Tennessee, with plans to graduate in 2015.
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“My experience entering Pellissippi was like most college students in many ways,” Hughes said. “I remember being excited, scared, and nervous all at the same time—college is scary and exciting, especially as a first-generation student.”
“I can still recall sitting in Dr. Kelly Rivers’ English class and Dr. Chris Milne’s biology classes and thinking that there was no way I would come out of those classes the same person, and I didn’t: I came out a better person who realized my potential. I felt like I could conquer anything that was thrown at me, because those professors prepared me. Pellissippi was and still is my open door to my future.”
As a first-generation college student, Hughes says she always felt that every one of her college achievements was celebrated, not just by her but by her whole family. While the pressure to succeed weighed on her, she was always aware that college could open the world to her.
Hughes, who attended Pellissippi State as a tnAchieves student, now volunteers as an ambassador for the program. TnAchieves increases higher education opportunities for Tennessee high school students by providing last-dollar scholarships with mentor guidance. Hughes also volunteers at the Forensic Anthropology Center on UT’s campus and holds down a part-time job.
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“TnAchieves gave me a unique college experience, because along with all the programs Pellissippi State has to help its students succeed, I also had a team of tnAchieves people that I could turn to.
“My mentor through tnAchieves gave me the opportunity to share everything about my experience with her, and she helped me celebrate the good things and work on the challenges that I faced.”
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Hughes plans to pursue a career in forensic anthropology, helping identify human remains after catastrophic events.
“I want to work on the teams that help bring peace and restore faces to those people who have become victims to circumstances beyond their control,” she said.
She credits Pellissippi State for starting her on the path to success.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better college experience,” said Hughes. “Pellissippi State gave me the skills I needed to keep reaching for my goals. I truly believe that had I not gone to Pellissippi State and received my associate’s degree, then I never would have made it to the point I am at now.”
For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400.