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Tamra Slagle

Tamra Slagle Statue FrontTamra Slagle Statue BackTamra Slagle at GraduationTamra Slagle epitomizes the community college success story. The former Cuyamaca College valedictorian with a degree in child development expects to progress at her current job at the Navy’s main child development center in Point Loma. “The challenge of going to college was a big undertaking and (faculty’s) encouragement and pride in my successes helped me to continue through each one of my struggles,” she told the commencement audience. “I felt as I looked around the campus a new purpose (in) my journey…I have come to believe that the obstacles I have walked through in my life have helped me to find courage. A mentor once told me, ‘Just do it afraid.’ The only people who fail are those who do not get back up and try again.”

Married at 17 and a mother at 19, Tamra Slagle thought she had everything she’d ever want out of life. With her husband making a comfortable salary in middle management, Slagle’s family rapidly expanded with the addition of not only the couple’s biological children, but also dozens of special-needs foster children. Over the years, no fewer than 51 children have called the seven-bedroom, three-bath house in Santee their home and an endlessly patient woman with a limitless capacity for love, their mom.

Fast forward to 2005. Slagle’s idyllic life was turned topsy-turvy by divorce and the 41-year-old mother of 13 was faced with the daunting reality of having to get a job with only a high school diploma and a very brief work history to offer potential employers. Slagle decided to pursue a career in what she knew best: taking care of kids. It had been 30 years since Slagle had seen the inside of a classroom and she was, by her own admission, filled with fear. Math, in particular, terrified her, but with the support of instructors, counselors and at home, her brood of 10 children ages 9 to 23 her story is of a life transformed within the corridors of community college. Broadcast nationwide by MSNBC and CNN and featured in a series, “Community Colleges: A Real Chance at the Brass Ring,” as an inspiring example of what makes these institutions so special. Community colleges offer an opportunity for anyone with the gumption to overcome obstacles to become tomorrow’s teachers, scientists, nurses, administrators, police officers, computer technicians – in short, the fabric of society.