Cancer delays but does not derail PBSC graduate’s plans
With a Child Development Associate certification and a College Credit Certificate in Pre-School, Tonia Williams Staten has been teaching since 2006 at the Achievement Centers for Children & Families in Delray Beach, but her long-term goal was to earn a degree.
Despite her initial struggles with a required math course, she was working toward her Associate in Science degree in Early Childhood Education at Palm Beach State College when she was diagnosed in 2014 with an aggressive breast cancer. It delayed, but it did not derail her plans to finish her degree.
“I just wanted more for myself,’’ Staten said, noting that she completed the CDA at PBSC in 2006 and the CCC in 2008. While undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments and surgery, she put school on hold. By the time she was in remission and enrolled in classes again, the COVID-19 pandemic had hit, but she moved forward anyway.
“I’ve been taking two classes at a time since then, she said, noting that she also passed the math class.
Her goal was twofold. There is a move within the industry to get more early childhood teachers classified as “highly qualified,” plus the 55-year-old West Palm Beach native, who is oldest of four children, wants to set an example for her family. After graduating from high school in 1985, instead of pursuing a higher education, she got married and later divorced after experiencing domestic abuse.
“I wanted to go to school but didn’t. Financially, I was not able to go to school.”
She largely funded her education through the Seeking Excellence and Education through Knowledge (SEEK) scholarship program, which is dedicated to improving the quality of Palm Beach County early childhood education environments through staff development. It is funded by the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County and administered by PBSC through the Institute of Excellence in Early Care & Education.
Her mom, sister and a brother are coming from Tallahassee to watch her cross the stage during the 2 p.m. commencement ceremony at the Palm Beach County Convention Center Dec. 20. Also in the audience will be her youngest brother, niece and her fiancé who live locally.
“It is a longtime goal that I completed,’’ she said. “I’m thinking about going on to get a bachelor’s. I’m just happy to get this degree.”