Garrett Espy

Criminal Justice Major (age 27)

I consider myself an unconventional graduate of Chattanooga State Community College. My journey through life and the pursuit of a higher education degree began when I graduated high school in 2010. I, like many people, was unsure of what I wanted to do for my future career. I knew that I wanted to go to college, but I was afraid that I would make the wrong decision and end up regretting my choice. I always believed in the saying, “chase the job that you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life,” so I decided to go into the workforce instead and save money for school until I figured it out. At the time, my family was unable to send me to college and warned about acquiring student loan debt, so I decided to save enough money for my first couple of semesters at college, which involved working a full-time job along with living in an apartment on my own. It was a challenging time in my life, but it taught me responsibility and the importance of a college education.

After three years of working, I had saved enough money and at the urging of wise friends and family, went back to school at Chattanooga State. Luckily, Chattanooga State offered a flexible schedule, so that I could still work full-time and take my classes part-time. Knowing my journey would be long and challenging, I was determined to succeed after finally discovering I wanted a career in criminal justice. Through the guidance of God, family, and friends, I came to the conclusion that I was meant to help and protect the society in which I lived and it strengthened my resolve.

Without a doubt there were difficulties along the way such as loads of homework, long hours of studying, and papers to write, but these trials taught me how to better manage my time and plan ahead, which has been a valuable resource to me to this day. The people that I surrounded myself with also made a great difference as well. My grandmother, mother, and father all gave me words of encouragement to do my very best and they supported me with what they could, such as providing my textbooks and school supplies.

As I progressed through school, I encountered another turning point in my life by marrying the love of my life. This commitment certainly added more responsibilities and pressures to the attainment of my education, but the strengths and blessings that I gained from my marriage have far outweighed them and have only added to my success. My wife and I faced financial struggles at first because we had extra bills, two car payments, her student loans, and were trying to save for a house in addition to paying for my schooling. It was challenging, but she was always there to encourage me to keep working hard and finish my education because she knew how much it meant to me and our future as a married couple. This endless support helped me the most because I wanted to provide the best for my wife and future family. My wife’s patience, understanding, and education assisted me greatly in completing all of my assignments, homework, and even classes. She has truly been a blessing in my life and a large part of my success as a graduate of Chattanooga State.

Towards the end of my journey as a student, the TN Reconnect grant became available for adults age 24 and older. TN Reconnect gave me the opportunity to gain free tuition for the rest of my time in college and allowed me to graduate earlier than I had expected. I couldn’t be more thankful or blessed for this opportunity and I would encourage all students to apply for this program. To all the unconventional students that might be considering going back to college, I would encourage you to not let the opportunity pass you by. It’s never too late to follow your dreams and you’ll never regret it. My last words of wisdom are from Roy T. Bennett who says, “Your hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life. Keep going. Tough situations build strong people in the end.” Good luck!