“I just thank God every day for giving me that second chance.”
That’s how Alecia Tutt describes how her life has improved since coming to Lord Fairfax. She enrolled last fall – 10 years after she graduated from Luray High School, and about a year after she gave birth to her son.
“I am truly blessed to be given the opportunity to go back to school,” says Tutt as she prepares to begin her second year at Laurel Ridge. “I feel I have been given a second chance at life, and I thank God and everyone at Laurel Ridge for all of the support, care and time they put into each student. Not only has everyone at Lord Fairfax guided me and encouraged me throughout my academic journey, but they have also supported me as a parent.”
Tutt had briefly attended New River Community College to study administrative support technology before returning to Luray and going to work for Northern Pipeline (now NPL Construction Co.) in Northern Virginia.
She worked as an emergency dispatcher there for eight years, commuting from Luray – “I put a lot of miles on my car and went through a lot of tires” – before downsizing cost her her job.
The 2017 birth of her son, Arenas Green, became her inspiration for returning to school.
“I asked myself, ‘What am I going to do with my life? How can I make a better life for my son?’” Tutt recalls thinking. “I had always wanted to go back to school, but financially I couldn’t afford it – or, so I thought.”
Then still living in Page County, Tutt began speaking to Judy Suddith, who manages Laurel Ridge’s Luray-Page County Center. Suddith was able to help her find a career path she found interesting. She is now in her second year of studying information systems technology with a cybersecurity certificate and will graduate in May.
“Having a baby and unable to afford childcare, I needed to be able to use online schooling,” Tutt explains. “Ms. Suddith showed me some of the online programs, including information systems technology. I have kind of a fascination with computers and know there is job security in that field. I’m just so thankful that she helped me kind of get back on track.
“She helps me enroll and register for classes every semester. She always returns my calls and emails, and gives very helpful and useful information to ensure I’m making the wisest decision that best fits my lifestyle.”
Karen Goulbourne, a loan and financial aid services program officer at the college, helped Tutt find scholarships and other financial assistance.
“She just helped me have that chance to be somebody for myself and my son,” Tutt says. “I’m going into my second year at Lord Fairfax without the burden of any debt. Everything has been paid for through scholarships.”
Now living in Stephens City, she is working in a paid internship in the information systems department at Winchester Medical Center. She can apply for the position after she graduates in the spring.
“I’m so grateful to Information Technology Professor Arthur Lee for constantly and consistently updating me with job and internship opportunities,” Tutt says. “That’s how I found out about my internship, which I love. Everyone is friendly. They walk you through everything. They’re patient with you and teach you.”
Tutt wants to encourage others who may have been in similar circumstances to her to make the choice to come back to school.
“I just want them to know they can do it,” Tutt says. “I want to be that push they may need. Just do it. You can do it. Speak to an advisor. There are programs out there that will fit into your lifestyle. For me, online learning really fits my needs. I’m able to spend time with my child while at the same time getting my education.”