Thursday, Apr 26, 2018
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Toledo family stays the course to earn hard-won degrees


Tammy McKittrick, center, is flanked by son Shawn Tompkins, Jr., 21, and daughter Shanice McKittrick, 23. All three are graduating from area colleges this month. ‘I had my children understand that we are going to college, we are going to get a degree,’ she said.

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Tammy McKittrick is one of the proudest of mothers.

Two weeks ago, her son Shawn Tompkins, Jr., 21, graduated from the University of Toledo. Today, her daughter, Shanice McKittrick, 23, graduates from Davis College. And Saturday, she graduates from Lourdes University.

The journey has been challenging for this Toledo family, as everyone went to classes, studied, and worked, but Tammy McKittrick said no other option was viable for her or her children.

“I had my children understand that we are going to college, we are going to get a degree,” said Miss McKittrick, who works in administration at Mercy Children’s Hospital. She has earned a bachelor’s in business administration.

Mr. Tompkins has a bachelor’s degree in communications, a profession he selected as a result of his mother’s insight. “When I was younger, my mother always said I talked a lot and that I needed to use it somewhere positive,” he said, smiling.

Shanice McKittrick has an associate’s degree in medical assisting. She also has certification in phlebotomy and is certified as an EKG technician. She and her brother have worked at McDonald’s since they were 16 and both are managers at the Secor Road restaurant. They look forward to working in their respective fields.

A Toledo Early College High School 2010 graduate, Mr. Tompkins finished the undergraduate work in 2½ years. He took college courses in high school and went to college in summer.

“When I graduated in 2010, I had enough college credits for an associate’s degree,” he said. He will return to college for a master’s degree.

Mr. Tompkins said there were times the work load was overwhelming. However, perseverance, self-discipline, and keeping the big picture in sight inspired him to stay the course.

“When others wanted to go party, I had to study. Sometimes I wanted to watch television a few more hours, but I knew I had a test and had to study, ” he said. “It was worth missing a few parties to get my bachelor’s at such a young age. God and my family helped me to get through it.”

Shanice McKittrick once wanted to be a pediatrician and she stressed that this is not the end of her schooling.

“I don’t feel like it’s over; it’s just the beginning,” said the 2008 Central Catholic High School graduate, who plans to eventually pursue nursing school.

Motivation and determination kept her going, though it wasn’t always easy. She said she believes in getting it right the first time, but candidly admits failing a class.

“It put me in a place where I didn’t want to go through that again,” said Shanice McKittrick, who is expecting a son in August.

“Failure was not an option,” her mother added.

“Mom always said ‘B or better’ ” in their school work, Mr. Tompkins chimed in.

“If I got a C, I didn’t want to take it home. I had better have a good reason for it. She was so serious about that. She would take away the PlayStation controller, basketball … at mid-term I had no option but to get better.”

The stereotypical images that single black mothers are failures with delinquent children stoked Tammy McKittrick’s determination. This 44-year-old mother, who has a 2012 associate’s degree in arts from Lourdes, proves the perception is wrong.

“I had to be a role model. I couldn’t avoid being a single mother, but I wanted to provide for my family,” she said.

While in college, she worked full time, took from nine to 12 credit hours each semester, tackled her own work, and helped her children with theirs, while all the time being a mother, too.

“I call them my pride and joy. That keeps me going,” she said.

After all, they are family, which means they are in this together. In fact, each one of them has the same tattoo that demonstrates their determination to remain tightly knit. Their tattoos state “TSS for life,” for Tammy, Shanice, and Shawn forever for life.

Contact Rose Russell at: or 419-724-6178.

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