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The tnAchieves Blog

#FindYourWhyTN: Breaking Family Cycles
By: Chasity Roberson, Managing COMPLETE Coach

February 11, 2021

As part of #FindYourWhyTN, we are highlighting tnAchieves team members who relate to each month's theme. This month, we highlight tnAchieves Managing COMPLETE Coach Chasity Roberson. Chasity was a first-generation college student and broke her family's cycle. We hope you find inspiration in Chasity's story!

I will never forget the Friday evening my parents and I drove to visit my grandparents in Orange Mound. It was one of many Fridays spent with family, as it had become a tradition for us to visit them once a week to have dinner together. It always went the same: My grandmother would fry fish, and we would just laugh and enjoy each other’s company. On this Friday, I brought five envelopes with me – all of my admissions letters from the universities to which I had applied [University of Memphis, UT Martin, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Jackson State University, and UT Knoxville]. I was intentional about saving them so that I could read them with my family.

When we arrived at my grandparents’ house, we watched Wheel of Fortune together until my aunt arrived, and then the spotlight was on me.

The first letter I picked up was from UT Martin, the school I ended up choosing for undergrad. I read the words, “Dear Chasity, We are pleased to inform you that you have been admitted into UT Martin for fall 2007…” I could hear my family’s cheers and claps as I read on to the bottom of the page, where I found information about the scholarship that I was offered. When I was done reading, I looked over at my grandmother and tears were streaming down her face. At first, I didn’t understand why she was crying.

“What’s wrong, Grandma? This is a happy occasion!” I assured her.

My grandmother quieted her sobs and said, “I’m so proud of you. I’m just happy to see you get to do something that we couldn’t do.”

“What do you mean?” I asked her.

My grandmother went on to tell me that she and my grandfather had only completed the fourth grade. They couldn’t further their education because they had to pick cotton to support their families. I had never known until that moment, and it made me realize how blessed I am. My parents had not been able to finish college, and now, I had learned that my grandparents never got the opportunity to complete grade school.

I was a first-generation college student, and I chose to go to college because my grandparents did not have the same opportunity. My grandmother showed me the importance of college by pointing out the value of educational resources that were not always available to people that look like me. Today I work as a coach for tnAchieves because I want other students to see that value and use the opportunities we provide to change their family structure and break generational cycles in the same way that I did.