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.

Getting ready for graduation: Tonia Williams Staten tries on her gown in the Lake Worth campus bookstore.

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.”

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12 comments on “Cancer delays but does not derail PBSC graduate’s plans”

  1. We are so proud of you Tonia! You are truly an inspiration to us all and especially to the early childhood profession. We wish you good health, happiness and many more blessings in the 2023 year! Never stop dreaming and pushing yourself. It’s what makes you an amazing educator.

  2. The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow).

    Congratulations, Tonia.

  3. Congratulations Congratulations Congratulations
    A Testimony of what hard work and perseverance will do in Spite of ❤️❤️❤️

  4. Ms Tonia, congratulations. So very happy for you and praying you continue to prosper. The Lord will perfect that which concerns you <3

  5. Congratulations Ms. Tonia I am so Proud of you!!!, You did it!!!!. Wishing you the best.

  6. Congratulations Ms. Tonia! You have done it. God had a purpose for you even with the bumps in the road. Keep striving and have a extra special holiday season!

  7. Congratulations Ms. Tonia. I have seen how hard you have worked for this, and you truly deserve this moment. You may not realize it, but you are providing inspiration to many who may think they can’t accomplish their goals. I am truly proud of you, because you wanted this for YOU. I’m excited to see what you do next!

  8. Congratulations Ms. Tonia! I join you in the Joy of this accomplishment! You DID IT!!!! May the Lord continue to guide you through your Bachelor’s Degree every step of the way! So Proud of you!

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