LaTonya Barrett

York Technical College

"It's never too late to live out your dream. Just keep thriving and striving for any goal you make because the reward is worth it."

I graduated from Rock Hill High School in 1986. I took some accounting courses at what is now called Applied Technology Center, because I really like numbers. When I graduated, I signed up for York Tech, but there were some things going on with my mom. She had gotten sick, but encouraged me to keep going to classes. She ended up passing away from cancer.

I made my mom a promise that I was going to go back to school eventually. After all of that happened, it took me a while to get back into the swing of things. A year later, I decided it was time to get back on my feet and back to school. Around that time, I found out that I was going to have a baby, which delayed everything. 

Two children later, my youngest was getting ready to turn two and I decided it was time to finally get back to classes. Back then, everything was done on paper. You had to write in journals. You had to list everything. It wasn’t automated like it is now. When I finished up my Accounting Clerk degree, I felt like I was on the right road again. It was around this time that I found out I had breast cancer. They gave me the strongest chemo treatment they had at the time. I went through six or seven months of treatment and a few surgeries. In the back of my mind, I still wanted to find a way to get myself back together, get on track, go back to work and get back to school. In 2018, I was in the process of getting everything in place to go back to school when I found out my cancer had come back on the opposite side.

Lydia Hall, who works at York Tech, was a childhood friend. After I finished treatment, she encouraged me to check out York Tech’s Reconnect Program. I worried about being an older student, but Lydia reminded me they had students of all ages and walks of life.  

After my first set of classes, I called Lydia and I said, “I’m not going to be able to pass. I’m just not going to be able to do it.” Lydia encouraged me to keep on pushing. I had support from family members. One of my nieces would call me every night and ask, “What paper are you working on today? Did you get your citations together?” I’d take a picture of it and send it to her so she could help me get it right. I had a whole village supporting me.

With their help, I was able to uphold my promise to my mom. 


How does it feel now that you’ve accomplished your goal?

It’s a joy knowing that I completed what I set out to do and kept my promise to my mom. No matter what obstacles I faced along the way, I was able to show my kids and grandkids that they can accomplish anything. I think I was also able to show my friends that it doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve waited. You can always go back to school and get more education. There’s no such thing as too much education.

I’ve shared York Tech’s Reconnect Program with a lot of people in their mid-20’s and early 30’s. If you started, you can always go back, and the program makes that easier. 


How did the support system you found at York Tech impact you?

My advisor was always available to answer any question – even during a lunch break. I had instructors I called at home because they gave out their home number for those of us who needed help. Whether I was texting them on a weekend or during the middle of the night, they’d always get back to me. We had amazing tutors ready and willing to help. I felt privileged to have support like that. The people I know who went to four-year universities didn’t get that kind of support. All I ever heard was, “They gave us the work. We have to do it. I’m trying to find someone who can help me.”


What advice do you have for others on their education journey?

It’s never too late to live out your dream. Just keep thriving and striving for any goal you make because the reward is worth it. Accomplishing your dream is a wonderful feeling.