Success Story: Tayla Brawner
Sometimes in life, one has no choice but to rise to the challenge. Two-time Bernie scholarship recipient Tayla Brawner has done just that. This fall, she will enter her junior year at Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C. By the end of 2020, she will have earned her Associate’s degree in Occupational Therapy and a Bachelor’s degree in Child Psychology. She will then work toward earning her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy.
When she walked across the graduation stage at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, she was three months pregnant. With many incomplete tasks and personal challenges, she came to a concrete decision on exactly how she would overcome her fear of failure. A couple of months later, she was attending Trinity Washington College. At the end of her first semester at Trinity, she gave birth to Madison, who is now seventeen months old.
“Having a child was more of a motivation than a barrier as many thought,” says Tayla. “God has placed Madison in my life as a wonderful blessing. She makes me very happy! As she grows, I want to be able to supply all her needs. That’s why I’m beyond dedicated to working my hardest at anything in order to succeed past my goals in life just so I know I’ve done my part for her as a mother.”
Tayla is a hard worker and has become independent over the last two years with high confidence. She has worked since she was in 9th grade. Last year, she worked two jobs and is currently working part-time at Shopper’s Food Warehouse. She is hoping to find work in an office, preferably as a receptionist or in data entry, while she’s in school full-time this year. At school, she has made the Dean’s List for two semesters. She also had a 3.5 GPA in high school, was a cheerleader for four years and participated in gymnastics as well as track and field.
As a little girl growing up, Tayla watched registered nurses come to her grandmother’s house and help her with her daily tasks such as taking her medications, exercising, eating healthy food, and even working on fine motor skills in her hands. “Seeing constantly how these individuals made a huge impact on my grandmother motivated me to want to do something that will help individuals maintain a happy, peaceful, and independent lifestyle with no limitations or restrictions when it comes to their physical, mental, and emotional state,“ says Tayla, who hopes to run her own practice someday.
“In junior high school, my counselor introduced me to many different jobs that were structured around helping people,” she continued. “Jumping from becoming a pediatrician to a registered nurse, I came across occupational therapy. After researching and watching countless videos of what it means to be an Occupational Therapy Assistant, right then and there, I knew this would be a career that I’d be passionate about. Occupational Therapy is more than just a career but a great opportunity to make a memorable impact, whether big or small, on the lives of many individuals and their families.”
Tayla says she has never had a mentor, although she gives thanks to many who have pushed and helped her along the way, both before and after her pregnancy. She has not known anyone in her family to go to college other than her mother, though she is pushing her brother, Tyler, to expand his education. Tayla has been able to afford college through The Bernie Scholarships and a scholarship from Trinity College, which she keeps by maintaining her G.P.A. above 3.3 and going to school full-time.
She is proud of earning her Bernie Scholarship. “Thanks to Bernie (Tetreault),” she says. “He wanted to help those who are trying to make way for themselves in the wake of many obstacles. It’s not only a good opportunity for me but others in the community because he wasn’t only helping the wealthy. They weren’t giving that scholarship to anyone. They gave it to those who are hard-working and focused.”
“I’m very outgoing and dedicated to my work,” she adds. “I do have a child, and she’s growing with me. I am truly blessed.”
In Her Own Words (Excerpt from a speech given at the Award Ceremony May 2018)
“First off, I would like to thank God who has stood beside me through many trials and tribulations and has never failed me. I remember just like it was yesterday …. walking across the stage, graduating from high school three months pregnant with my beautiful daughter, Madison. So many emotions were coming and going that day … from deciding whether or not I was ever going to go to college, to being a great mother, to thinking about pickles and cold cut sandwiches.
Fast forward to now, two years later … a current junior student at Trinity Washington University with less than two years to go before I earn my Associate’s degree in Occupational Therapy and a Bachelor’s degree. No, it wasn’t easy, but it was definitely possible and worth it. I have been through so much, and I’m pretty sure you all have been through tough times as well, but it does get better.
Galatians 6 verse 9 says, ‘Let us not become weary in doing good for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’ With persistence, drive, courage, and resiliency, you’ll go so many places you’ve never dreamed of.
To Madison, I am so thankful to be your mother because you have pushed me to higher means, to want more out of life, and not to settle for anything less than what I deserve. ‘Mommy is doing it all for you. I love you.’”