Earned degree with seven kids
There was a time in Taressa Thompson’s life that she thought she might be earning
her college degree “at 80, holding a cane.”
“I knew education was important, but at times having a family and trying to have
a career while going to school was all just too much,” Taressa said. “My family
ended up overriding my education. I stopped and started, stopped and started, and
thought I’d never finish school.”
When she first graduated high school in 1993, Taressa worked two full-time jobs
while attending an Alabama community college. The stress became too much when a
promotion at work gave her even more responsibility and less time off, and she
also married a United Methodist minister, which increased her family of four children
“After we married, life really turned upside down because they were all little
babies at the time,” she says. “We prayed about it and decided I needed to work
from home to be with the kids. So I left corporate and made the decision to stay
home, but I couldn’t just sit there and not further myself.”
She decided to take online classes in graphic arts through an Atlanta university,
but the dedication involved in online classes while taking care of seven kids simultaneously
soon became too much.
“I decided then that I needed a brick-and-mortar school,” she says.
Taressa began a business from home in administration and event planning. It thrived
for awhile until the economy turned sour, and as she was seeing fewer clients,
she began attending local career networking meetings and fairs when she met a representative
from the Evening College at LaGrange.
“I met Kenya Rainey from the Evening College, and she encouraged me to come interview
and take a tour,” Taressa said. “She said, ‘I’ll call you,’ which I didn’t think
she would end up doing.”
Kenya called her the next day and said, “I’m waiting for you to come take that
“I was shocked,” Taressa says. “I didn’t think she’d call, plus I’d driven by
LaGrange College so many times and thought to myself, ‘I haven’t always had all
As or even all As and Bs. They wouldn’t take me.’ But Kenya said they would look
at my overall transcript and that I should at least take a look.”
Taressa, whose kids were now at the age where some could drive, decided to give
it a chance. She parked across the street from the college, walked over the college
bridge, stepped on campus … and cried.
“The tears just began to fall,” she says. “I set foot on campus and knew immediately
this is where I am supposed to be. I cried during the whole tour. People were asking
if I was OK, and I just wanted to say, ‘If you knew my whole story, of how long
I’ve tried to find this connectedness at a college, you would know why my tears
Taressa initially worried if she would be a “fit” at LaGrange College but ended
up excelling at everything she touched. Omicron Delta Kappa, the leadership honor
society, and Delta Mu Delta, the business honor society, both inducted her as a
member. The business administration major also earned $500 for being the winner
of a business competition through developing her idea called “Virtual Office Administration.”
In addition, she received the sole Business Leadership Award at Honors Day.
“The moment I heard my name for that award at Honors Day, I almost screamed in
the church where it was being held,” she says. “With my professors, I’d had the
chance to really sit down with them, to learn from them, to draw from them what
they knew to create our need and desire for learning. When I received that award,
it was just this awesome moment of knowing that someone recognized you for who
you are, the leadership abilities you have, all when I was thinking that I didn’t
even belong here.”
Just before she graduated in May, Taressa landed an internship at West Georgia
Health to help the health system address for the federal government how it and
other entities were providing resources for area citizens. For a new Community
Resource Guide, Taressa tracked down all agencies that provide necessities such
as clothing, emergency shelter, food and educational resources and developed a
database that will soon be offered online.
“It’s helped me meet so many wonderful people in the non-profit arena,” she says.
“The doors have been opened so wide for me after being at LaGrange College.”
She graduated from LaGrange at the same time her husband received his Master of
Divinity degree at Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Two of their
children also graduated from college this year, and next fall the remaining five
all will be in college at once. Taressa will begin working toward a Master of Arts
degree in Public Administration with a concentration in non-profits.
“With my husband working for the church, we see a lot,” Taressa says. “I’m an
initiator of change. I really want to impact the lives of people.”
After earning a degree 20 years after graduating from high school, Taressa says
she’s proof that it’s never too late to go to college. She also says that, along
with her family, her Evening College friends helped make it feasible.
“LaGrange College accepted me, and the opportunity of a lifetime opened up,” she
says. “Anyone can do this. Ask your family. Ask your friends. Ask your professors.
Ask your classmates, for they have that same challenge of juggling family, life,
work and school as you do.
“It doesn’t matter if you haven’t taken math for 20 years. You will fit in, and
you will thrive.”