How Tiffany Bass Became Stronger With Support From Durham Tech
A baby cries just off screen as Tiffany Bass thinks about why she went back to school. She doesn’t miss a beat, simultaneously making silly faces at the infant and explaining why furthering her education has been so important to her.
“My mom got diagnosed with cancer when I was in the sixth grade and I basically took care of her. She had divorced my dad not even two years before that and I just watched her be a single mom to three kids. Not complaining. Not asking for help. Not doing anything to show us that she was struggling,” Tiffany explains tearfully.
“But I knew she was struggling. And at that age, I knew I needed to step up and be there to take care of her. The strength that she had; I absorbed that. And in the midst of [her treatment] she went back to school. She got her criminal justice degree.”
Tiffany is now following in her mom’s footsteps and also going back to school. She is already a certified nursing assistant in the Duke healthcare system, floating around to various departments, filling in when people call out sick or a unit is particularly overwhelmed. But she wants to work in the clinical education field and is working towards becoming a registered nurse at Durham Tech.
The journey to Durham Tech hasn’t been easy. Until recently, Tiffany had been commuting sixty miles round trip from Roxboro to cut down on expenses. On top of that, she had just undergone a series of medical procedures, one of which led to continued medical complications that persisted throughout her first semester. And just as she began to recover, Tiffany made the choice to take primary custody of her niece’s son while also facing a pay cut at work.
Then the pandemic hit.
During the interview, Tiffany’s other two children occasionally appear on camera, causing her to smile. She sighs while explaining the unique problems the pandemic has posed for her family.
“I went from being on campus four days a week to being at home with three kids, trying to get work done online. And school my 12-year-old. And also, my 3-year-old is developmentally delayed. I basically had to continue to do [speech] therapy with him on my own. And in the midst of all that, I was working in the hospital.”
Once the pandemic hit, Tiffany no longer received in-home therapy visits for her son, forcing her to educate herself on various speech therapy practices. In fact, she’s had to shift, adapt, and learn how to be a teacher to all three of her children since the schools have shut down.
Tiffany spends the early morning with the baby, giving him tummy time and teaching the baby about his toes and fingers. After that, she works on speech, letters, and motor skills with her three-year-old. After speech therapy, it’s her eldest child’s turn to go to school.
The mornings are overwhelming and the weekend doesn’t provide any respite, since that is when she heads off to work.
Fortunately, Tiffany hasn’t been facing the pandemic alone. Durham Tech has been providing various services to students who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. Through the Durham Technical Community College Foundation, the school provides a year-round food pantry but has seen a large increase in the demand for its services since the pandemic hit. In fact, the school has used a Rapid Response Fund grant from United Way of the Greater Triangle to help meet this demand. Durham Tech has also been providing essential goods to students and has even provided students like Tiffany with a laptop when coursework shifted to online.
“They went above and beyond to help me finish up the semester and get prepared for the summer semester to start.”
Since Tiffany works on the weekend, she found herself unable to make it to the diaper bank that is offered every Friday. Durham Tech began going for her, getting diapers every week and delivering them to her on Wednesdays as part of the food pantry. Even when Tiffany’s dad was diagnosed with cancer and it became difficult for her to make it into Durham at all, the school continued to make sure she had access to services.
“Even when I was in Roxboro on days that I couldn’t get a ride to Durham Tech, or on days when [my dad’s] platelets dropped, they sent me gift cards so I could go get groceries and food items. They were being a better resource to me than my own job.”
Tiffany is excelling in her coursework and is now preparing for the fall semester. Each week, she spends time on Facebook studying biology or chemistry with her classmates, while juggling the duties of motherhood. When asked what gives her the strength to keep going, Tiffany has a simple answer, her mom.
“She just pushed through. She showed me that with compassion…you can be the best that you can be.”