Tiara Johnson was going to go to college. Nothing was going to stop her – not the long hours, not having to balance a full-time job with a heavy course load, not even being a single mother juggling a full plate.

Some might even say she was determined to go precisely for the last reason. When she looked into her 2-year-old daughter’s eyes, Johnson knew she had to do something to improve her earning possibilities to give her daughter the life she wanted.

That life was far from what she was leading. She was stressed by having to balance school, work and being a mother. When school lasts from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. four days a week and work is 40 hours on top of that, time and energy are difficult to find to be the mother your daughter deserves.

Johnson stumbled upon help when she saw an ad for Buckner Family Pathways in Lufkin on the Angelina College website.

“I knew I was going to have to move here to finish the pharmacy tech program,” she said. “I did some research and I called. Sure enough, I got an application, and it worked out.”

The program, which provides affordable housing for single parents while they pursue their higher education goals, alleviated the stresses of commuting, working full time and daycare for her daughter while she attended school.

As a result, Johnson has been able to concentrate on her classes and raising her daughter, Kailyn, now four. With Buckner’s help, she is growing in knowledge and as a person.

“The program is amazing,” she said. “They just do so much here. Not only do they allow you to go to school and get a career path lined out, they also focus on teaching you how to be a self-sufficient adult after Buckner. They do workshops geared towards helping us become better parents, how to cook, self-defense courses. We even attended a coupon seminar, teaching us how to budget.”

Johnson earned her pharmacy tech certificate and has transferred to Stephen F. Austin State University, where she is in the pre-pharmacy program focusing on allied health occupations with a minor in public administration. After graduating next spring with her bachelor’s degree, she plans on working toward her master’s degree so she can become a pharmacist.

“Tiara has grown into an exceptionally gifted student and mother who is driven to succeed at whatever she sets her mind to,” said Buckner Family Coach Amanda Mott. “She is now better able to balance life and ensure her daughter is well provided for. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree and plans to become a Pharmaceutical Representative. This is perfect for her, especially with her high spirited, enthusiastic personality. She will be fantastic at any future goal she sets for herself.”

Along the way, Kailen is seeing her mom succeed. She’s learning that college is important by seeing how hard her mother is working. Johnson believes that will help Kailen understand what she needs to do to succeed later in life.

Buckner Family Pathways has changed both of their lives.

“I really feel like Buckner Family Pathways is more of a hand up than a hand out,” Johnson said. “They do everything they can in their power for you to be successful. If you need help with anything, you can come to them and rely on them to give you the help you need. They help you realize the opportunities that are in front of you and help you accomplish the goals you’ve set out.”

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