Tanya Naborowsky ’17 didn’t grow up around people who went to college. “That didn’t happen in my family. My mother was one of 16 children, and my father was one of 11. It wasn’t an opportunity that they would have had,” she said.
For Tanya, college was a foreign and unrealistic idea in her mind. In high school, she worked as a dining hall clerk at a local college.
“That experience was really good for me because it made me realize that normal people do go to college,” she said. “I began to see that I could possibly one day maybe go, too.”
And then at 16-years-old, Tanya became pregnant. “College was no longer a possibility in my head. I focused on taking care of my daughter and finishing high school.”
After graduating high school, Tanya enrolled into cosmetology school. “It seemed affordable and something I could probably manage.”
A few years later, Tanya and her daughter’s father separated. “It was already where I pretty much raised her by myself anyway, but then we were really on our own,” she said.
At 21, Tanya got a job at Shaw’s Supermarket as a part-time deli clerk. She loved it, and she was moved to a full-time position. Tanya decided she wanted to be promoted, and eventually became an assistant deli manager. A year later, she was promoted to deli manager.
Then, Tanya decided she wanted to become assistant store director. “I applied three different times, and they told me no each time. I got tired of being told no. I’m not really good at no,” she said. “So, that’s when I decided to go back to college. They told me I couldn’t be promoted because I didn’t have a degree.”
In 2012, Tanya enrolled at Thomas. “And, my foot has been on the gas pedal pretty much ever since,” she said.
Tanya, 43, usually takes two classes a semester and works full-time at Shaw’s. She laughed at the question of whether it was hard to balance.
“When you have a child at 16 and you’re working and taking care of your child by yourself, this is nothing.” She is now the assistant store director at Shaw’s in Waterville.
Tanya, who graduated on May 13, says it was the staff and faculty at Thomas who really made a difference in her experience at the College.
“I adore Cathy from the CED office. She is the most amazing, helpful woman I have ever met in my life – and I’ve met some pretty amazing people. So, that says something about her character,” said Tanya. “Any question I’ve ever had about anything, if Cathy can’t tell me the answer, she definitely finds it for me and I love that.”
“The experience of doing the class work was great and all, but it’s a different atmosphere. Thomas offers something that other schools could not even come close to. And for me, that was that they love their subjects. And, it’s not that it was one or two of my professors. You could see that stuff come alive in their faces when they would talk about it,” she said.
Tanya’s time at Thomas College is just one chapter in her life.
During one of her writing classes at Thomas last year, Tanya was asked to write journal entries daily. Her professor said they could write about anything.
“And, so I started writing. At first, it was just about my day – training and work. I didn’t know what to write about,” she said. “But then, you just go along and you start thinking about things. I began to write about my daughter and about myself. And about my past.”
“I just put it all out there, like I was writing for myself, and nobody else was reading it.”
Tanya wrote about how she was sexually abused at five-years-old.
Her professor Deb Berry told her that her writing was powerful and that she had a story she should share with others.
Deb suggested she complete an independent study with Maine author (and Director of Foundation Relations at Thomas) Shonna Milliken Humphrey to improve her writing. During this independent study, Shonna encouraged her to complete an intensive, seven-day writing course in Guatemala with best-selling author Joyce Maynard.
Tanya said by sharing her story with others she was able to begin to heal – after spending her life trying to keep the abuse a secret.
“Writing and talking about my abuse completely changed the course of my life,” she said. “I want to change that for somebody else.” That’s why she is writing a book about her experience.
*This was originally published in the Spring 2017 Thomas Magazine.