Hardships, faith give PDCCC graduate insight to make a difference in the lives of youth

Kecia TaliaferroBy the age of 12, Kecia Taliaferro had seen more than her fair share of hard times. She had experienced abuse and attempted suicide. Her faith in humanity and God further dwindled after she turned 16.
 
Although her parents made significant changes to their lives later and tried to encourage her to join them in spreading the word of God and healing others through Jesus Christ as well, Taliaferro was, at that time, at a point of no return. She was a product of her environment, with no self-esteem and no regard for others. She developed an addiction and eventually engaged in behavior that resulted in her arrest.
 
“I made a conscious decision to turn all of my mess over to Jesus and figured if he was who he said he was, then my feelings of despair would diminish,” she said. “And my life changed.”
 
Years later, Taliaferro found herself thinking about pursuing postsecondary education at Paul D. Camp Community College at Smithfield each day as she visited the library to research jobs and update her resume. The PDCCC site is located on the second floor of the library.
 
“I finally stopped wondering, ‘what if,’” she said, “and applied to PDCCC in 2008.” She excelled in her studies at the college, even while holding down one and two jobs at a time. She became a scholarship recipient; student ambassador; recording secretary of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society; a delegate to the Virginia General Assembly; a tutor and a guest speaker at a foundation friend raiser. Although she was forced to drop out of school for a period of time due to a serious illness, she returned full speed and graduated summa cum laude in May 2013 with an associate’s degree in general studies, and certificates in religious studies and general education.
 
“Because I utilized financial aid and scholarships while at PDCCC, the lower costs of attending community college allowed me to have financial aid available for my first year as a transfer student at a four-year college,” she said.
 
Taliaferro noted that if it were not for the faculty and staff who cared so much about the students’ success, her time at the community college would have been ‘unremarkable.’
 
“During my time at PDCCC, I saw many from my past come for associate degrees and GEDs and it warmed my heart to see them trading dysfunctional living for better lives,” she said.
 
Taliaferro has also earned a bachelor’s degree (magna cum laude) in human services from Bluefield College where she was inducted into the Alpha Chi Honor Society. She is set to graduate in May 2017 with her master’s degree in education in Christian School Administration from Regent University in Virginia Beach.
 
She has been working for four years at the Boys & Girls Club of Southeast VA, serving as teen director and program leader. She is also in her third year working at Kings Fork Middle School. She currently serves as the in-school suspension coordinator and general education paraprofessional.
 
At 52, Taliaferro has become a life coach for the children with whom she works at both jobs.
“God has blessed me with a gift to be able to relate to them,” she said. “They know that I relate to them from a place of understanding and wisdom.
 
“My relationship with these kids are a reflection of my relationship with my Father, God. His love for me is evident in my love for them.”
 
She accredits her journey that began at PDCCC for opening doors for her and enabling her to give youth the encouragement and support that she did not receive when she was young.
 
“PDCCC is a beacon of hope in the community and the promise of what we can become,” she said. “I thank God I passed it every day, and praise Him for giving me the courage to walk through the door.”