For The Quinns, Higher Education Is A Family Affair

Thursday, June 7, 2018 - by Julie Jarnefeldt, Chattanooga State
J.J. Quinn
J.J. Quinn

On May 6, when Joseph “J.J.” Quinn walked across the stage at Chattanooga State’s Commencement ceremony to be awarded his Associate of Applied Science degree, his focus in the moment was avoiding an embarrassing fall. “Honestly, I was just trying not to trip. You see all those videos of people during graduation falling or making a fool of themselves.” From the audience, his parents couldn’t have known his worry, overwhelmed as they were with excitement; his mother was so proud she could not stop smiling. Later, even after J.J. had time to process his own accomplishment, he says he mostly felt pride for his peers and all they achieved together.

The road to this triumphant day was long and paved with many challenges. For years, the Quinns braved expensive moves all over the region to make sure J.J. had access to the classes he needed in high school, given his interest in nuclear engineering. Later, he moved in with his grandmother to help during her post-cancer treatment recovery and worked in a local factory. Though J.J. planned on eventually pursuing a career in the Navy, his grandmother encouraged him to consider Chattanooga State.

“I walked [onto the Dayton campus] and the first thing they handed me was a little radiation protection pamphlet. I was hooked.” He applied to the college that very day, and in spring 2016 J.J. began his college journey, even though it meant driving nearly two hours each way. Since that time, he has become an integral part of campus life, serving in roles such as ePortfolio lab mentor, vice president of the American Nuclear Society Club, and a judge for local robotics competitions – not to mention a friendly face on many of the college’s Web pages.  

J.J. was not the only member of the Quinn family eyeing higher education. His parents, Joey and Heather, had always dreamed of pursuing college studies but focused on raising children and prioritizing their educations first. Joey describes his recent path to Chattanooga State to study criminal justice as “seventeen years in the making;” Heather comes from a family of nurses and doctors, so her current pursuit of a nursing degree continues the tradition.

The challenges of seeking education, however, have not diminished. In addition to long and expensive commutes, Joey and Heather note the difficulties of returning to a school routine after such a long absence. Paying for college has also meant dramatic trade-offs and financial sacrifices, such as selling beloved personal belongings and meeting multiple family members’ scheduling needs with only one car. As with many college students, balancing jobs, school, and family responsibilities can be overwhelming, and it doesn’t take much to tip a precarious balance into crisis.

For a few months in 2016, after having money stolen from them, the Quinn family experienced the nightmare of homelessness. J.J. admits how difficult it was to focus on school and considered quitting to get a factory job; it was especially painful watching the impact on his loved ones. Now, though, he is grateful for his perseverance and the perspective that follows such a crisis: “I am a graduate who made it despite my situation. I never quit. My parents never gave up on me. We did not know about eating, but we had faith that we would be okay and kept gas in the car so I could attend class.”

At another point, the Quinns opted to take advantage of one of the college’s newer resources: The Tiger Cupboard, which provides food for students and their families in need. It is just one of the support offerings Joey says has made an enormous impact on his family’s ability to be in college. “ChattState has a lot of resources, and they want people to come to school. Things like that make and build the community, and it’s absolutely amazing. I’ve seen campus police putting gas in students’ cars. If every college campus had what ChattState has, it would make the world a better place one day at a time.”

The payoff for so much continued hard work and perseverance? J.J. is excited to begin a new job at TRU Waste Processing Center, putting his engineering degree and academic experience to immediate use. His sister, Haley, will begin her studies at Chattanooga State in fall 2019 to become an allergist, continuing the family tradition of excellence in spite of obstacles. The Quinns have followed advice that Joey says he would give to other college students working hard to achieve their goals: “Don’t give up. Ride the bus, walk, whatever you have to do. Education is worth it.”


Girl Scouts Of The Southern Appalachians To Hold Free STEM Workshops At Chattanooga State Community College

Cannon Named 2018 Alum Of The Year For Lee’s Division Of Adult Learning

Hale Named 2018 Distinguished Alumnus For Lee School Of Business


The United States STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) gap is widening each year. In an article published by U.S. News and World Report in August 2018, statistics were cited that ... (click for more)

Rodney Cannon was awarded the 2018 Distinguished Alumnus Award for Lee University’s Division of Adult Learning at a Homecoming department breakfast on Nov. 3. “Rodney returned to Lee University ... (click for more)

Hugh Hale was awarded the 2018 Distinguished Alumnus Award for Lee University’s School of Business at a department breakfast during Lee’s Homecoming. “Mr. Hale was selected for multiple reasons,” ... (click for more)


Student Scene

Girl Scouts Of The Southern Appalachians To Hold Free STEM Workshops At Chattanooga State Community College

The United States STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) gap is widening each year. In an article published by U.S. News and World Report in August 2018, statistics were cited that projected the STEM gap in manufacturing alone would lead to 2 million unfilled jobs by 2025. Together, Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians (GSCSA) and Chattanooga State Community College ... (click for more)

Cannon Named 2018 Alum Of The Year For Lee’s Division Of Adult Learning

Rodney Cannon was awarded the 2018 Distinguished Alumnus Award for Lee University’s Division of Adult Learning at a Homecoming department breakfast on Nov. 3. “Rodney returned to Lee University Online to finish the degree he started several years ago. His pastoral, civic, and interpersonal skills enriched my classroom,” said Catherine Yaun, director of DAL curriculum development. ... (click for more)

Breaking News

City Council Considering Interim Ordinance Curbing Development Of Steep Slopes, Floodplains

The City Council is considering action soon on an interim ordinance curbing development of steep slopes and floodplains. The measure would limit development of slopes of 33 percent grade or more to 20 percent of those steep grades. It would allow no more than 51 percent of a floodplain to be developed. A large number of developers in the audience indicated they are strongly ... (click for more)

Chicago Drug Dealer Who Supplied Large Amount Of Heroin To Chattanooga Contacts Found Guilty By Federal Jury

A Chicago drug dealer who prosecutors said supplied a large amount of heroin to sources in Chattanooga was found guilty by a federal jury in Chattanooga on Tuesday. James Silas, 50, was convicted of conspiring to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin. Sentencing is set for April 24 at 2 p.m. by Judge Curtis Collier, who presided over the trial. Based on a prior drug ... (click for more)

Opinion

Thanks To First Volunteer Bank

Thank you to the Highway 58 branch of First Volunteer Bank. On behalf of the Ernie Pyle Chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, I would like to express our appreciation to the manager and staff of the HIghway 58 Branch of First Volunteer Bank for putting on a Veterans Day lunch in the lobby of your bank on Friday, Nov. 9. It was a cold and rainy day and Army, Marines ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: It’s A Racist Thing

Being a child of the South, I’ve marveled at our funny sayings for all of my life. I’ve been at a football game and heard a disgruntled fan in the stands say of his team’s quarterback, “That boy couldn’t play dead in a cowboy movie.” I’ve been at the Sunday supper table and heard, “I’m of a mind each one of his sermons is better than the next.” And I’ve sat in a Saturday morning ... (click for more)