Juanica Walker came to Tidewater Community College to train for a new career. Her goal was to be able to provide a stable life for her special needs son, Gianni.
She found her calling while working as a nurse aide and medical technician in private homes and facilities for the elderly and those with intellectual disabilities.
“As a nurse aide, I always found myself advocating for my patients and making sure they had the services they needed,” she said. “Whether that meant bringing them clothing, or a birthday cake, or connecting them with community resources.”
She added, “When I was considering a career switch, human services just made sense.”
Juanica, 32, was concerned about starting college in her late 20s, especially as a single mom with anxiety and depression. “At first, I thought I can’t do this. Then I realized if I can’t help myself, I’m not going to be able to help anyone else.”
Juanica connected with Human Services Program Lead and Professor Ivory Warren. And with hard work and persistence, she earned an Associate of Applied Science in Human Services in two years.
“Ms. Warren is one of those professors you don’t want to fail around. She makes you strive for success. She’s also a counselor and professor, offering us life advice while we learn in her classes.”
During this time, Juanica also found resources for Gianni, now four years old. With a set schedule and many doctors and therapists, he is thriving with his autism diagnosis. He will start kindergarten in the fall.
“I tell everyone who is looking to go to college to start at TCC. With the resources and helpful staff, you can start small and take steps toward your future.”
While studying at TCC, the college provided Juanica with a free laptop, Wi-Fi, financial assistance for her son’s daycare and meals through The Community Feed at TCC.
She also engaged with the community through the TCC Human Services Club and the Women Overcoming Whatever group.
Juanica is now working full-time for Jewish Family Services as a Guardian Representative. She has 30 clients that she helps connect with resources while taking care of their personal affairs and living situations.
“I recently connected one of my clients with a son that he hadn’t seen in years. It was a truly special moment when they saw each other again,” Juanica said. “Those moments make the stressful days all worth it!”
Juanica is continuing her studies at Old Dominion where she says she is well prepared. “There are no surprise moments, everything rings a bell because of my start at TCC.”