Name: Tiffany Walton (SSF Alumna)
School: University of Florida
House: Mack Tyner, Jr. Scholarship House
Year: Fall 2014 – Spring 2016
My name is Tiffany Jean Walton, and I am 19 years old, and I am from Jasper, FL. I live in the Mack Tyner Scholarship House in Gainesville, FL. Currently I am attending Santa Fe College as a linguistics major, and I will transfer to the University of Florida in the Spring of 2017. After graduating from the University of Florida, I plan to teach English to kids in other countries, and the main focus being in Central and South America.
Growing up it was always my mom, my sister, my brother, and I, and we were always moving somewhere. We have been through the fire together, and we never gave up on each other. My mom got pregnant with me when she was 18, and she had me when she was 19, and in the midst of her pregnancy my dad decided to walk out of her life, so one day when I was 9 years old, I decided I wanted to meet my real dad. I remember telling my mom “mama I want to meet my daddy”, and I remember her telling me “baby he is in prison, but you can write him a letter, but don’t be sad if you don’t get a letter back from him”. That same day I wrote a letter to send to this man I had never met in my life, my dad! I was so excited, and I waited to get a response, and soon I received a letter in the mail from him. I remember the excitement I felt that day, and we talked for months; however, shortly after we had contact, my mom and the man she had recently married separated, so I had no contact with my dad because we had to move out of the house. We moved into one of my mom’s friend’s house, and shortly after, I moved to my aunt’s house, and my brother and sister went to live with their dad, and my mom stayed at her friend’s house.
During all the chaos, I had to move with my younger brother and sister into their dad’s girlfriend’s house, and things where good for about a month and a half, and then their dad started being brutally abusive with my little brother and I. For 8 months I watched my little brother, who was 6 years old, being slammed into walls, punched in the stomach, choked, and so many other horrible things. For 8 months I cried, and would be snatched around by my hair, cussed at, and yelled at. I was so depressed, and I hated everyday that I was awake. I would call my mom everyday who at this point was in Colorado, and I would tell her “mama he beat us again today, and if he does it again I am going to kill myself”, and in the midst of all this, my mom called me on October 23, 2007 and told me my dad had died.
At that point so much was going on in my life that I was so numb to pain because I had grown such a tolerance for both physical and emotional pain. I remember saying to myself that night “wow, I never got to hug him, and see his face, and I will never have that opportunity”, and I went on about my life. As I grew older, I began noticing that I desired a father figure in my life, and I would see young girls with their dads, and I would always whisper to myself “I wonder what it feels like to have a man in your life who does not beat you, cuss at you, yell at you, and call you names, but instead he loves you, he takes care of you, he takes you on father-daughter dates, and he encourages you”. I never had this experience, but I am so thankful that some children do have these experiences.
Many things happened, and my sister, my brother, and I made it to Colorado to live with my mom, and a year and a half later we made it to Ft. Stockton, TX, and then back to Florida. I was in seventh grade when we moved back to Florida, and I was a crazy young girl. I was so bitter, hateful, aggressive, and I had many emotional issues. I went to a conference called Ski Invasion my 8th grade year of middle school. It was a Christian conference that my youth group at the time was attending, so I went with the intentions of hanging out, and maybe learning a little, but little did I know my whole life would change! One of the nights after the worship service, I gave my life to Jesus! Yes, I confessed with my mouth that Jesus is Lord, and I believed it in my heart! After the conference, I went back home, and I was discouraged because I knew I was going back to the same ole’ same ole’, and I thought man everything will be different, but it wasn’t. I began making the same choices I was making before I went the conference, but that all changed the summer after I finished eighth grade. During that summer, I was sitting in my room, and I remember so clearly the Holy Spirit told me “Tiffany, if you do not begin choosing to follow me and my ways, you are going to end up an alcoholic, a drug addict, in jail, and pregnant”, and ever since that day, my life has never been the same. I began to seek the Lord, and draw near to him, and he drew near to me. I began reading the Bible, and understanding who God really was, and I mean I sought after him with my whole heart. When I realized that I was now a child of the kingdom, I realized I was not fatherless anymore, but I had been adopted, and a price was paid for me, and I realized that what Jesus did on the cross was for people like me. I was so lost, broken, hurt, depressed, abandoned, bitter, angry, hateful, and just crushed by the things I had been through, but Jesus healed me of all those things. Jesus set me free, and I am free of the hurt, of the depression, of the abandonment, of the bitterness, of the hatefulness, of the weariness, and insecurity. Jesus mended my broken heart, and he made this girl brand new, and now by his grace and how he has loved me, I am loving, kind, caring, forgiving, joyful, peaceful, good, and I have self-control. Now I can love people unconditionally because of the love I have been given.
When I gave my life to Jesus, my whole perspective on life changed. I used to have no vision for myself, I told myself “I’ll stay in this town for the rest of my life, and settle down, and just do like everyone else I’m surrounded by because it’s the easy way”, but the Lord knew the plans he had for me, and my senior year of high school I prayed and asked the Lord “what do I do Lord?” because I did not want to stay in Jasper, so much stuff was happening, and I knew it would not be wise for me to stay there, and instantly the Lord began speaking to me about college, but I tried to ignore it for a while because I thought there was no way possible for me to go to college. I did not have finances for anything, not even to pay to send applications in to universities, and I was very discouraged by this. I thought “well, I’ll go into the military”, but the Lord instantly told me that was a no, so I scratched that out real quick.
My best friend and I were sitting at lunch one day talking and eating, and I asked her where did her brother live, and she told me SSF, and I asked her what it was, and she explained it vaguely to me. That day I went home, and I searched Southern Scholarship Foundation, and I read through the “about us link”, and I was so excited to have read what I read that day. I began praying and seeking the Lord for whether or not I should apply because I had never done anything like this before, and the Lord told me to apply, so I did. Time went on after getting all the information for the application done and turned in, and I remember checking my e-mail everyday for and e-mail from SSF, and I was so anxious and excited that it seemed like it took forever, and then eventually I was receiving e-mails from Mrs. Turner, and then soon enough I was scheduled for an interview. I went to the interview praying that I would make a good impression, and that I would get this scholarship. And I remember leaving saying “I wonder what Mrs. Turner thought of me?” because I knew if I did not get this scholarship, I would not be going to college, and the Lord gave me so much peace, and he told me “you do not need to worry, and you do not need to make a plan B because I know your needs, and you will get this scholarship”, so I was at peace, and soon enough I received an e-mail congratulating me on becoming part of the SSF family, and I remember jumping up and down, and being so excited because I knew this was my way out, and I knew now I would be going to college!
When I was given a tour after I was accepted, I was given my tour at Tyner, and I remember walking in, and my jaw dropped, and I was in complete awe. The beautiful light green walls, the beautiful dark brown leather couches, the dark brown shiny wooden tables, the huge bright and beautiful kitchen, the beautiful tile floor, and the glorious height of the house brought me so much excitement because it was what I imagined my future home always looking like. When I left, I kept picturing Tyner in my head, and I remember telling myself “I sure hope I live in that house, it is all I have ever wanted in a house”, and sure enough that was the house I was placed in, and I love living here. Being in SSF has helped me so much in my college life. Being a recipient of this scholarship has provided not only housing, food, utilities, and a comfortable bed to lay down in, but also a warm, loving, calm, peaceful atmosphere. I love coming home to a beautiful home and such loving ladies. Living the life I lived growing up, we never really had a home, but I’m so thankful to say I have a home, and that my home is Tyner.
Education for Life for me makes me think of two things, one of the two being the education one will receive while in college, and of course it can be used for life. The second thing Education for Life makes me think of is the education one will receive for life while living in SSF that no college/university can teach. There are certain things in life that you have to experience because no individual can teach it.