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Graduate spotlight: Coffin finds support, starts business caring for others

woman stands in front of a tree with red leaves

Pamela Coffin received the support she needed from Pellissippi State Disability Services.

After years of struggling in class and feeling like a failure, Pamela Coffin was ready to give up on college.  

Pamela first came to Pellissippi State because of her daughter, who encouraged her to go to college through the Tennessee Reconnect program. However, after failing several classes, Pamela became discouraged and thought something had to be wrong. 

“I thought it was the end of the world and didn’t think I could do it,” recalls Pamela. “I thought something had to be wrong; there’s no way I keep failing back-to-back-to-back-to-back. I’m following the instructions, I’m reading all my homework, doing everything as best as I can, and I just can’t understand what’s going on.” 

After Pamela reached out to Pellissippi State Disability Services, she was tested and diagnosed with dyslexia. Once she knew the source of her struggles, Pamela was able to find the support she needed and began thriving at Pellissippi State.  

“Oh my goodness, you talk about support! Disability Services at Pellissippi State is top notch,” says Pamela. “The staff provide so many resources and tools for students. If it had not been for them and the tools they provided for me, I wouldn’t be sitting here today. They gave me everything I needed to be successful! I wasn’t ashamed that I had a learning disability. I finally felt like, ‘I can do this! I am going to do this!’” 

Pamela graduated from Pellissippi State in December 2021 with her Associate of Science and plans to go into social work after a lifetime of caring for others. As a child, Pamela’s mother was in and out of the hospital frequently. As an adult, Pamela has supported family members as they battled illnesses, including cancer, and is also a full-time caregiver for her husband, who is a Vietnam veteran and a Purple Heart recipient. 

She hopes to pass this compassion on to her children and grandchildrenDevin, Makayla, Amos and Amora.  

“I’m teaching my family to care about others,” shares Pamela. “It’s not always about money, it’s about having love for one another.”  

Pamela has already started her own business, A Lota Care, where she provides services as a notary public, personal representative and medical surrogate. She loves helping people and solving problems, and she believes everyone deserves to have someone who believes in them and is willing to fight for them.  

“Life is a journey,” says Pamela. “We’re all paving a way as we go. The struggle is real, poverty is real, mental illness is real, physical conditions are real, habits – good or bad – are real. And it’s a reality of life, but if you just have that one person to extend a helping hand and listening ear, it will make a difference.”