April #FindYourWhyTN Theme: Pursuing Your Passion

If you follow tnAchieves on social media, you have heard about our #FindYourWhyTN campaign. Each month we are focusing on a different theme representing the main reasons our students say they are motivated to go to college. We are encouraging students to share their stories via social media to help inspire other students and ensure each student has a firm WHY for pursuing their post-secondary dreams! This month’s theme is Pursuing Your Passion; something I can say was most difficult for me.

I come from a family of college-going people, and I knew very early on that I wanted to go to college. However, what I wanted to do with my life was more difficult for me to determine. When I was little, I wanted to be a teacher. As I grew older, I thought I would be a really great news anchor, but that quickly changed when I realized I was a little camera shy. I remember my parents always telling me I should be a lawyer because I loved to argue (like many high school aged students, right?). But I never really loved that idea.

When the time came for me to choose a major in college, I was so indecisive! I remember feeling so stressed and so pressured, thinking whatever I chose would lock me into something forever. I just didn’t know what I wanted to do! I settled on business because I was convinced the skills I learned in business would help me regardless of my career path. I concentrated in finance and landed in a management-training program with a large bank as my first job after college— it was NOT a great fit for me. I quit after 10 months and moved far from home to a ski town out west to find my passion. I worked as a waitress, hardly making enough to pay my portion of rent in the tiny house I shared with five others. On the side, I worked as a substitute teacher. While I was exploring my dream from childhood, I realized I really enjoyed working with high school students, but I didn’t necessarily think teaching was a long-term career I would love. I also realized in this time that waitress life and working for minimum wage was not the life I wanted.

After a year and a half exploring my interests and talking to anyone who would listen about finding what I wanted to do in life, I chose to move back home and get my MBA from The University of Tennessee. I spoke with one of my professors about my love of working with students, but still wanting to use my business skills. He connected me with our director, Krissy, whom he had met during a previous project he did when knoxAchieves was just getting started. I began working as an intern for tnAchieves while completing graduate school and realized this was my passion! Helping students understand that college is an option for them and working with them to realize their passion was what I truly loved - and still do! 

I never would have found my passion had I not pursued my educational goals and talked to others about my interests. Knowing the importance of education and the role it played in finding a career that allows me to feel fulfilled and stretched each day helps me as I communicate with TN Promise families. I know figuring out the right career path is a struggle for many of our students. Some know what they want to be from a very young age, but everyone has a different path to get there. That is where tnAchieves steps in for so many families! tnAchieves mentors are such a great resource for this conversation with their assigned students, so, if you are a mentor, tell your students your story! If you are a student, be open to discussions about finding your passion! Having a WHY for your college journey makes everything feel like it is meant to be, so be sure to take the time to explore your WHY and engage with others as you do!
Jackie McDonald, Deputy Director of Operations

Learn More About Jackie

Connecting passion with a program of study and eventual career is a motivating factor for many students! When connecting with students, we hear that they are motivated to attend college because they are interested in specific careers. Exploring their passion to help students find their WHY will propel them to college graduation. Students can explore a variety of careers to help them determine the career path that is best for them by watching tnAchieves virtual community service webinars at tnAchieves.org/virtual!

Hear from current tnAchieves students who are in college to learn more about to specific careers!

April Panel Discussion: Pursuing Your Passion

To shine a light on Pursuing Your Passion, tnAchieves hosted a panel discussion moderated by tnAchieves Deputy Director of Partnerships Graham Thomas. The panel included tnAchieves students and mentors who used their passions to guide their degree choices and careers. The panel discussion focused on how each person used their interest in a particular career field to drive their success in college and career.