2017 grad reflects on TRIO and academic experiences at Laurel Ridge

Tiffany Matthews

“It felt like a nurturing hub.”

That’s how 2017 grad Tiffany Matthews described the TRIO lounge on the Middletown Campus.

The TRIO program provides specialized services, including academic advising, transfer planning, tutoring, financial aid assistance and college success skills to students who are first-generation college students, are low income or have a disability.

“I was a first-generation student and low income,” Matthews said. “I really liked that I had the same academic advisor the whole time. She knew my plans and my goals. I think I was in that office almost every single day using the free printing. I liked the support TRIO provided me. They helped me buy a laptop when I didn’t have one.

“The college holds a really special place in my heart. It’s where I got to know myself and grow in confidence as a learner.”

Matthews earned a career studies certificate in early childhood education in addition to her associate degree. She then transferred to Old Dominion University, earning a bachelor’s degree in human services last December.

Matthews works for The Laurel Center as a sexual assault victim advocate while pursuing her master’s degree in public administration from ODU.

A 2006 graduate of Liberty High School, Matthews was a stay-at-home mother for her daughters, now 12 and 8, before enrolling at Laurel Ridge.

“I went back to school when my kids became school age,” she said. “All of a sudden, I felt really alone and like I had to do something for me to engage my brain again. I loved my time at Laurel Ridge.”

Among her favorite faculty were English professors Brent Kendrick and Jennifer Schaefer, Sociology/Human Services Professor Larry Friedenberg and Communication Professor Naomi Simpson.

Matthews thrived academically while at Laurel Ridge, being inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa honors society, earning an honors degree, receiving the Outstanding Achievement in English award at graduation, and also receiving an award for outstanding scholarly performance from TRIO.

“Laurel Ridge provided me a strong and supportive foundation for my academic goals beyond their institution,” she added. “I’m forever grateful that I was paired with supportive staff that advocated for me so I could rise and grow. I graduated from ODU with a 4.0 and completed their LeADERS program. I wouldn’t be the woman that I am today without going to Laurel Ridge first. I truly mean that it feels like a home to me – I can’t think about my time there without teary eyes.”

Learn more about the TRIO program at laurelridge.edu/trio.