Pellissippi State honors graduate hopes to inspire others

portrait of female outside with trees

Be kind. Be courageous. Follow your dreams.

Those are the messages Chisa Huffman wants to share with others as a new honors graduate of Pellissippi State Community College.

Huffman took home an associate’s degree in Nursing from the college’s Commencement ceremony on May 10. She also was inducted into the 2013-2014 Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges and received a Service Leadership Excellence Award, a Distinguished Service Award Medallion, and an Outstanding Graduate Award.

“I didn’t do this [going to nursing school] just for me,” she said. “I did this for everyone who has the odds against them, for the kids that don’t have a good life—to show them that they can do it.”

Huffman was one of those children who didn’t have a “good life,” but she chooses not to dwell on what in her past could easily have held her back. Instead, she focuses on what in her life helps her succeed, and she shares that message, mostly through her own example, with others.

“Chisa is one of the most inspiring students I have encountered in over 16 years of teaching,” said Susan Heyde, who teaches in the Administrative Professional Technology program. “Her vision is to give hope to those in need. Her leadership is demonstrated through her actions, and she has a heart to change lives.”

Huffman was 30 years old when she enrolled at Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus in 2013.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school. I had no guidance. I had no one telling me that college was an option,” Huffman said. That didn’t stop her from earning an LPN (licensed practical nurse) from Blount Memorial Hospital.

At Pellissippi State, Huffman met with an academic advisor, who, she said, “looked at my grades and my experience and helped me find my path.” She applied to and was accepted into the college’s Bridge to Registered Nurse Pathway, which provides LPNs a fast-track opportunity to become RNs.

Once in school, Huffman got involved with the college’s Service-Learning program. In Service-Learning courses, students learn in the classroom and they also team with community partners in service opportunities. Community service, for Huffman, translated into mentoring and tutoring outreach.

“Service-Learning brings people back to people,” she said. “In one of my service projects, I worked to mentor a young girl whose parents were incarcerated. That was very meaningful to me, because I came from that type of background. So being able to help a child past that was amazing.”

Huffman says the most important personal quality she has nurtured in herself, and the most important quality she hopes to inspire in others, is courage.

“Most people wouldn’t see that as a skill,” she said, “but nursing and school aren’t just about being able to perform skills. You can be scared to think that you might not be able to help. Courage is having the strength to fight that fear within.”

Having earned an Associate of Applied Science in Nursing and passed the mandatory NCLEX exam, Huffman is now qualified to embark on a career as a registered nurse. But she still has more to achieve.

Come fall, she plans to be back at Pellissippi State. She’ll once again be taking classes at the Blount County Campus, this time pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing through Pellissippi State’s partnership RN to BSN program with King College.

And no doubt, as she pushes on to attain her own dreams, she’ll be helping others to reach theirs.

For more information about Pellissippi State and its many offerings, visit www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400.