PENDLETON — In 2009, National Merit Scholar Lindsey Morris was awarded full academic and athletic scholarships and headed to the University of Delaware to begin her freshman year in college. The goal was to study equine medicine and compete as a member of the university’s rowing team.
Then life — and circumstances beyond her control that she never saw coming — happened. One year later, she was living independently, with no source of income or financial aid to pay the next year’s tuition.
“I hit a wall in Delaware. Without parental support, I couldn’t get private loans and federal grants didn’t cover the out-of-state tuition,” said the Savannah, Ga., native. “It was painful. I moved back home to decide where to go next.”
That place was Clemson University where she hoped to become a member of the Division 1 rowing team and an in-state student. Her father lived in Charleston at the time. Unable to secure a scholarship and without parental support, she dropped out because of financial hardship — again.
“I wanted to start my own life and live independently. I stayed in the area and enrolled at Tri-County Technical College as an opportunity to prepare for my future. It saved my life,” said Morris, today an associate degree nursing major.
Through her job as front desk associate at a hotel in Clemson and scholarships from the College’s Alumni Association and Foundation, along with federal grants, Morris is back on her feet and looking forward.
“I was floored by the opportunities at Tri-County. Things have finally fallen into place. I’ve gone from feeling hopeless and dejected to being optimistic and confident,” said Morris, now 23.
“I look forward to having a strong career and a family one day and being able to provide security and comfort for those I love. Now I am excited for my future. I can take care of myself and can count on people in my life, including my instructors.”
She says the small classes and approachable faculty and staff were a welcome change.
“I’m not an ID number and a scantron sheet at Tri-County. Here, they know my name and when I e-mail them, I get warm responses. It makes college not so daunting,” she said.
“The Alumni Association Board members were very impressed with Lindsey’s scholarship application and excitedly chose her as one of our recipients,” said Mary Johnston, director of alumni relations at Tri-County. “We have gotten to know Lindsey through her participation in Alumni Association events and she is a delightful young lady. She is mature, focused, and personable and has overcome great odds on her educational journey. The Alumni Association embraces the College’s vision: ‘Passionate people transforming lives and building strong communities one student at a time,’ and we are proud to fulfill that vision through dedicated students like Lindsey.”
In the past, Morris always set goals, and despite prior setbacks, today is no different.
“Personally observing addiction and mental illness in my family and friends, I’ve seen what drugs and alcohol can do to lives. I want to be a mental health/substance abuse nurse,” she said. “It’s important if I can help one in 50 to get his or her life back on track and lead a functional life again. I know I can make a difference.”
She misses the team camaraderie and the sport she loves (when competing on the Delaware rowing team they had a perfect season), but over the last few years, she had to step back and reassess her life and circumstances.
“I chose a longer, uncomplicated, but more fulfilling path to my goal,” she said. “I’ve come a long way. These scholarships (Alumni Association and Abney) from Tri-County have made it possible. If I depended on my job for tuition, rent, food and gas, it couldn’t work. I feel empowered and it’s so nice to be recognized with the scholarships. I appreciate all of the people who are helping to make it happen. Tri-County is about helping students get to where they need to go.”
She plans to graduate in May 2015.