Taressa Thompson

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 to seven.

“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 tour.”

“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 were flowing.’”

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 know 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.”

Friends for the Journey

LaGrange College attracts the best and the brightest from all over the world. For example, our most recent incoming class consisted of men and women from 19 states and 10 countries, and included:

  • 76 members of Beta Club or the National Honor Society
  • 71 members of service organizations
  • 51 team captains in varsity sports
  • 25 leaders involved in student government, with 11 presidents
  • Three students involved in school publications, one as editor
  • Two Eagle Scouts
  • 20 musicians in band or orchestra
  • 18 singers in choir
  • 31 entertainers in performing arts
  • 85 students in religious activities.

But you don’t have to be a star in high school to succeed at LaGrange. Here, you’re given the opportunity to discover the best in yourself and find your destiny – all in a caring and supportive environment.