was in Paris, Texas, when I learned of my acceptance into UNT. My grandmother was having knee replacement surgery. I was tense the whole week, checking my email on my laptop every day.
I was in her hospital room when I got the news. After many years in community college, UNT had always been my dream school. I began to cry. And my mom began to cry, too.
This opportunity was a long time coming for me and my journey overcoming adversity.
As a survivor of human trafficking and spending time in the foster care system, I missed most of the foundations of education and social skills. The acute trauma, added with the complexity of having dyslexia and dysgraphia, created a huge barrier to my education growing up. But I did not let my initial fear of "I am not smart enough for a university" keep me from pursuing my dreams.
During my freshman orientation tour, I remember parents were supposed to split up from the students, and I told my mom, who adopted me at age 29, "You're not leaving me." I thought I would never learn my way around campus.
So the week before classes started, we went to campus together to figure out the best routes between the buildings ahead of time so I wasn't confused.
I took it slowly by taking two or three classes at a time because I was so terrified. I would get the syllabus and feel overwhelmed. For a test that took most people an hour to complete, it would take me three.
But in my first semester, I made a 4.0. I said to my mother, "I made a 4.0. Me? "
And my mother said, "Yes, sweet girl, you made a 4.0!"
What I learned about succeeding as a student is that you have to make yourself known to professors and let them know your struggles. I had standing appointments every week with my professors. I took part in online tutoring. I would do that and then I would pay for additional tutoring.
I also received help from the Office of Disability Access; PUSH, a foster care alumni program; and TRIO, a federal program for low-income Americans. I was very transparent about what my needs were. I was an older student, and I didn't have time to waste.
My behavior analysis professors Dr. April Becker and Dr. Shahla Ala'i Rosales knew my disabilities, but they also could see I was a bright student. They let me explore the topics that were important to me. I loved every minute of being in their presence. Besides making sure that I fully understood the academic concepts, they also made it a point to always say something positive and encouraging to me. They inspired me and made me feel like I could change the world.
Now that I've graduated, I plan to focus on GloryB, a nonprofit organization I founded to help those suffering from complex trauma -- including survivors of human trafficking and ritual abuse -- rebuild their lives.
What makes our organization unique is that we give the power back to the survivor to take the lead in determining what the rest of their life will look like. In the future, we also hope to have a home for stabilization and residential care.
Because I have walked through this pain and am able to relate in a deep and profound level, I wanted to be a part of encouraging human trafficking victims to have a voice for themselves.
I will tell my clients what I told myself: You will get your degree, and it doesn't matter the length of time it takes to get it -- what matters is that you keep going!
-- Tiffani Price ('20), who earned her bachelor's degree in behavioral analysis from UNT's College of Health and Public Service this spring