Nursing graduate named Student of the Year
Life could not have been worse for Mary Taylor-Thompson.
When she found herself pregnant at 16, she was forced to drop out of high school. She became a wife and gave birth to two more children through five years of marriage. In 2002, after years of abuse, she packed the kids in her car and fled. She left the abuse behind, but the physical scars she carried with her.
Divorced, with three kids, her future prospects were grim. She was successful in getting employed as a customer service representative and receptionist for various companies, but it didn’t fulfill her goal of helping improve peoples’ lives.
Lack of an education hampered her efforts at a better life. She wandered into the Cheatham County Adult Education Center where she passed her GED on the first try. Bolstered by a good score, Taylor-Thompson went to the Practical Nursing program, located in the same building on Elizabeth Street in Ashland City as the Adult Education Program.
Now, just a few months after graduation, Taylor-Thompson’s life shows no signs of the gray clouds that hovered over her for years. Now, her children are thriving (one is married), she is employed as a nurse at a local long-term care facility, and she has found new love. She and her fiancé married in December.
The icing on the cake? She was named Student of the Year for the Tennessee Technology Center at Dickson.
“The Tennessee Technology Center has put me on the path to a career that I have always dreamed of,” Taylor-Thompson said. “The skills and knowledge I've learned will allow me to be a safe and efficient nurse, and has also given me job security and will allow me to help support my family - and that means so much to me.”
In her nomination of Taylor-Thompson, a resident of Ashland City, nursing instructor Shirley Hayes said “Mary’s ability to overcome hardships in life has made her the person she is today.”
Taylor-Thompson’s “compassionate, caring attitude is infectious and makes other students strive to be the same. Mary comes into class with a smile on her face every day – no matter how bad the day. She says if her smile can light a patient’s day, then the smile is worth it,” Hayes wrote.
Taylor-Thompson was a cheerleader and mentor for fellow students struggling in class. On more than one occasion, Taylor-Thompson got out of bed, put clothes on over her pajamas and met a classmate at an all-night eatery to study.
The instructor said Taylor-Thompson was frequently the first student to try a new skill. “She says if she messes up, then those around her can learn from it and succeed,” Hayes stated.
Taylor-Thompson’s goal is to go on and become a Registered Nurse specializing in geriatrics and Alzheimer’s care. She’s hoping to start an LPN to RN bridge program this fall.
“I love my career,” Taylor-Thompson said. “I’m working lots of hours and learning all the time…Live is amazing and God has been very good to me.”
Taylor-Thompson is enjoying geriatric nursing and the time she gets to spend with the Alzheimer’s/dementia patients. “It’s hard work but such a blessing to me to be able to love my job.”
The Student of the Year competition is a series of events that stretch from competition at the local technology center level, to regional competition then to statewide competition. The competition is sponsored and organized by the central Tennessee Technology Center office within the Tennessee Board of Regents. The statewide winner receives a free automobile and is spokesperson for the technology centers in a variety of settings.
Taylor-Thompson competed against program nominees representing TTC Dickson’s eight different campuses in Ashland City, Clarksville, Dickson, Fairview, Franklin and Waverly. An internal committee reduced the pool to three finalists. The final decision was made by a panel of judges external to the school. The three judges were Pat Semore, retired Career and Technical Education director for Dickson County schools, Judy Redden, Dickson County civic leader; and Donnie Wills, Senior Vice President of TriStar Bank.
Finalists in Dickson’s Student-of-the-Year competition were Lisa Self, a McEwen resident enrolled in the Computer Information Technology program; Joseph Horton, a Burns resident and graduate of the Ashland City Practical Nursing program; and Chad Ragan, a Dickson resident and graduate of the Business Systems Technology program.
The students were required to prepare a three- to five-minute presentation to the judges telling about themselves and how technical education has improved their lives. The judges then were free to ask questions on a host of issues related to their training and their goals.
The judges praised Taylor-Thompson’s enthusiasm and drive to persevere over adversity.