Grateful for how becoming a student at Laurel Ridge has helped her, Tiffany Morris is turning around and helping others in her community.
The aspiring registered nurse has started a community group on Facebook called “Free for Fauquier” that connects people in need with those who can help them. This can be physical needs, or someone needing a friend or welcoming them to an area, says Morris, a mother of three.
She started the group earlier this winter, and it now has more than 1,500 members.
“It’s hard enough when you feel alone,” said Morris, who married her middle school sweetheart last summer. “I felt if I did this, maybe it would help a lot of people who are dealing with depression or going through hard situations and be a helping hand.”
One child helped by those in the group was a 6-year-old boy who had never had toys of his own, Morris said.
“I sent out a message to group members saying a family needed help,” she said. “When I pulled up at his house, this boy was like, “Finally, finally it’s Christmas.’”
Some group members meet at parks with their children. If someone is having a rough day, another group member can come and meet them for ice cream or lunch, Morris said.
“We just kind of provide a live body vs. something virtual to be there for someone else,” she explained.
Morris, who graduated from Fauquier High School in 2004, got the idea for the Free for Fauquier group after a classmate at Laurel Ridge did a presentation on how hard it was for some families to afford school lunches for their children but were ineligible for free lunches. She was able to put $100 into four different families’ accounts.
Morris has benefited from the Path to Success Program, an initiative launched on the Fauquier Campus last year. The program offers extra support to students who are first-generation college students, have income constraints, or need extra developmental support prior to beginning college-level coursework.
Path to Success students have access to a special study area with computers, a textbook library and hotspots for those without reliable access to the internet. They also qualify for certain scholarships and emergency grants.
The program was started with funding from the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education’s Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative (RVHI) and a matching grant from the PATH Foundation.
The RVHI refers to the shape that would be formed if a line was drawn from the Eastern Shore west through Southside and then southwest Virginia and then up through the Shenandoah Valley. Within this region, which represents 75 percent of the state’s geography, 500,000 people have less than a high school diploma.
Because of this, Virginia is ranked 31st in the nation when it comes to the percentage of residents with at least a high school equivalency credential. The RVHI project’s vision is to transform Virginia’s rural communities through higher education and 21st-century job skills.
Through the Path to Success program, Morris met Laurel Ridge Success Coach Julie Fainter.
“If it wasn’t for Julie Fainter, I don’t think I would’ve made it through my first semester,” Morris said. “She has been a godsend for me. I’ve been struggling with my math course, and Julie has been working with me. She has gone above and beyond and never gave up on me.”
Morris aspires to do the RN program at Laurel Ridge and possibly work as an emergency room nurse.
“That passion is what’s driving me,” she said.
She has been working in the nursing field since graduating from Fauquier High School in 2004. While in high school she took a nurse’s aide class and has been doing in-hone care.
“I’ve always wanted to be on the Laurel Ridge Fauquier Campus,” she said. “I’ve heard a lot of good success stories from there, and I’ve heard how family-oriented Laurel Ridge is. It’s not like you struggle and the staff doesn’t care. They want everyone to be successful.“
Having been out of school since ’04, I need all the help I can get. And, I’m getting it.”
To learn more about the Path to Success Program, contact Fainter at [email protected].
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.