Tampa Bay Area program helps single mother finish earning college degree

Becoming a teenage parent can make it hard to finish college, but a local program is helping young adults get their diplomas.

Getting a college degree hasn't been easy for Tansheka Riggens. The single mother of three has spent 18 years finishing her college education.

She's had some tough times.

"I would just not be able to juggle the responsibility of being a parent and working and providing, and it would force me to either withdrawal or just kind of stop doing the coursework all together and end up getting a failing grade in the course," Riggens explained.

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Riggens didn't give up, in part, because of the Complete Tampa Bay Program. The initiative provides support and funds for students who started their degrees but didn't finish it.

Pictured: Tansheka Riggens with her kids

LEAP Tampa Bay sponsors the program.

"There's a large population of individuals in the Tampa Bay Area who might have started their degree but just never completed," said Matt Smith, Completion Coach Complete Tampa Bay program. "And so they need assistance with knowing how they can go back towards completing their degree."

They say their effort is creating the workforce the Tampa Bay Area needs.

"It helps everybody. It helps the industries to have people working in them. It also helps people have better opportunities for themselves, whether that might be for living conditions or better conditions for their family and just overall general health for individuals too," Smith said.

The 3-year-old program has helped more than 100 students reach their dream of getting a college education.

Pictured: Tansheka Riggens

"We want to be able to be that person that's in a corner for the students and let them know that if you do have something that comes up, there's somebody there that can help you," Smith explained.

For Riggens, the hand up has been invaluable. She is just one exam away from getting her Associates of Science degree from St. Pete College.

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"It feels different this time. It feels more rewarding. It feels more optimistic this time because it's not, ‘What am I trying to do? When will I do it?’ Like I'm at the finish line and I just have one more step to take. So it feels awesome," she shared. 

Riggens is forever grateful for the doors the program opened for her and her family's future success.

"It would put me in a position to be more gainfully employed and to make more money. But it also is like I set an example to my children to show them that you can move forward even if you have adversity or obstacles. Nothing is truly impossible," she said.

Riggens goal is to become a RN.