NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Single mom follows her dreams to NECC Deaf Studies program

Taryn Decker is a Deaf Studies major in her second semester at NECC. She is 30 years old and a single mom, taking five classes and working part time. She somehow manages to balance all of these things and keep an optimistic attitude while she does so.
Decker realized what her dream job was when she was at Portsmouth High School in New Hampshire. While she was attending, they added a program for deaf students which had interpreters and also offered classes. She took two classes, which she did well in, and found out that she loved the culture. She knew then it was what she wanted to do.
“My dream for 15 years has been to be a sign language interpreter,” she said.
This is her fourth time trying college.
13 years ago, she came to NECC because of the Deaf Studies program because the college was and still is affiliated with Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. She knew that meant it was a really strong program because they don’t just give that affiliation to anybody.
Life took an unexpected turn when she got pregnant during her first semester at NECC. She quickly realized she was unable to keep up with the course work due to being sick and exhausted. She was going to be a single mom and had to accept that it was no longer the right time to her to pursue her education.
She tried going back to school online twice but was pursuing things she wasn’t really passionate about, like psychology and medical billing and coding.
“All I got was more student loan debt and nothing to show for it,” she said.
She later got married and had two more children. Five years ago, she got a divorce. Once again, she is a single mom, but now with three kids at ages 5, 7 and 11 years old.
Now that her youngest child is in kindergarten, she decided since she’s no longer paying for daycare and has the time, she is going to try again.
“I want my kids to see that even if the dream gets put on hold for a little bit and doesn’t turn out exactly the way you want it to, you can still do it,” she said.
As part of her time at NECC, Decker also works part time at the Bentley library on campus. She started working there last fall.
“I love it,” she said. “I get to just smile and talk to people all day.”
Decker came with the goal of graduating from the Deaf Studies program, but she has to complete prerequisites in order to get into the program. As she takes care of those classes, she is considered a General Studies major working towards Deaf Studies. This fall, she will actually be in the Deaf Studies program. Her goal is to graduate in May of 2018.
Decker said that when she first came to NECC 13 years ago, she didn’t care enough to actually strive to do the best she could do. Instead, she was more worried about passing her classes and getting to the next level without putting in too much effort. This time, she says that’s going to be different.
“I want my grades to reflect how much I care about being here,” she said.
Although she is enthusiastic about the work, she admitted it can be challenging at times when her kids ask her to play with them and she has to tell them no because she has homework to do. They are seeing the sacrifices that she has to make to be in college now, whereas if she had done it before, she would have time to be with them and focus on them instead of worrying about writing a five-page paper due the next day.
“That part I do regret, that I can’t pay as much attention to them,” she said.
Her secret to balancing being a single mother, working part time, taking five classes and getting straight A’s is “very little sleep.”
“The thing is that I actually love it. Any time I say ‘Oh, I have to write a paper,’ I’m excited to write that paper. I’m excited to do my math homework. I have never been happier in my entire life,” she said. “I am blissfully happy right now. It’s not even like work. I’m getting the opportunity to finally pursue what I want.”