Gojo, FedEx, Pearle Vision, Harley Davidson.
Tammy Monroe spent years as an IT professional for many well-knowns.
(insert sound of tires screeching to a full stop)
Then, she said, she got a message.
“I believe when God puts something on your heart, you do it,” Tammy said. “I saw African American males not finishing high school, not making good transitions to high school,” Tammy said. “I wanted to give them skillsets to stay entrenched, be their own advocate, find resources and help navigate that space.”
So, back in Akron after years in Columbus, she founded the Working in Progress youth achievement and development program (workinginprogress.org). Her goal: help middle school and high school students gain skills such as leadership development, transition planning, learning strengths and more.
Tammy immediately abandoned her business studies and focused on earning an associate degree in health and human services at Stark State College. With that in hand, she’s now working on her bachelor’s degree in public administration via the 3+1 partnership program between Stark State and Franklin University. The program allows students to complete three years at Stark State and finish up with one year of Franklin University classes online. It’s a way to seamlessly transfer up to 94 previously earned college credits.
“I could have gone somewhere else, but I love the class sizes here, the interaction with professors, the people I’ve met here, said Tammy, who’s president of Stark State’s Phi Theta Kappa honor society chapter. “Plus, there’s the class flexibility and affordability. This allows me to continue enjoying all that, staying in what’s become my community.
“I’m the same as my students,” she said. “I still need that anchor. And if I need it, I know they need it. We’re lifelong learners together. We all need someone walking along with us consistently. I’m part of their growth, part of raising them, just like Stark State is raising me.”
On track to earn her bachelor’s degree by 2025, she sees academic credentials as currency for her plans to publish her own methodology on learning styles, an idea she says will change the way curriculums are taught.
“I try to lead by example,” she said. “My students see it’s never too late. If you stop, there’s always an opportunity to pick up again. I’m in class with people of all ages. If I don’t know something, I find a tutor. My vulnerability helps my students.
“They have a lot of barriers and challenges and I teach them how to figure it out, how to keep going, survive, navigate, overcome. I want them to know that once you leave home, here’s the path, the bridge out of poverty. You just have to show them how to navigate one day at time.”
Active in many community organizations, Tammy is always looking for “opportunities to be a change agent,” she said. That passion is her bottom line.
“I’m not here just to get a degree,” she said. “You’ve got to have purpose. When you have a reason, it makes you hungry, thirsty to do it. When you have something that draws you, nothing else matters.”