Sherry Chaffin, communication '20 with an English minor, is a college senior who knows that promises are meant to be kept, even if it means going back to school after spending 50 years in the workforce.
Her parents were originally from Cookeville, but Chaffin grew up in Long Beach, California and attended the same high school as famous rapper Snoop Dog.
Once enrolled in Long Beach City College, she dropped out to work at a ski resort with her best friend.
“Part of the reason I’m back in school is I made a promise to my dad when I dropped out that I would someday get my degree,” she said.
Chaffin spent most of her life traveling the world as a flight attendant. When her dad passed away in 2005, she moved back to Cookeville and commuted to Chicago for work. In-between her work schedule, she would take classes. Over time, she accumulated 66 hours of credit.
“I retired from American Airlines in 2013 and I was looking for something to do,” she said. After realizing how affordable the nontraditional student program at Tech was, she enrolled in 2015.
Chaffin chose to major in communication because it suited her lifestyle and made sense given her past careers of being around groups of people. She is concentrating on the public relations side of communication.
Being a nontraditional college student can have its difficulties; however, Chaffin has not let the challenges discourage her. Instead, she has boldly walked into them with determination to accomplish her dream no matter what lies in the way.
“I’m not afraid to tackle anything, although my (biology) class might get the best of me this semester,” she said with a laugh.
Learning to use a computer has been one of the biggest obstacles Chaffin has had to overcome while being at Tech.
“There’s a lot of 30 and 40 year olds who use the computer in their work. I’ve never had a job where I use the computer,” she said. “I would say, I could not get through Tech without my fellow students, who have been amazing helping me overcome the problems I’ve had with computers.”
Chaffin has enjoyed coming back to college because it has given her the opportunity to mix with different generations and diverse students.
“A takeaway from going back to college at my age would be how great the students are and how diversified Tech is,” she said. “I’m really pleased that Tech represents so many nationalities.”
Being around diverse people is something Chaffin enjoyed about her career as a flight attendant. Tech has allowed her to utilize her people skills to make connections and inspire other students.
“One of my accomplishments here at Tech is to show millennials that you are never too old. You’re never too old to accomplish anything. And really, you can be just as hip at 70 as you can at 20.”
As graduation for Chaffin is nearing, she has received many questions about what her next dream will be.
“I’ve been asked what I wanna do after I graduate by just about all of my professors and some of them, when they see me in class, give me a ‘ooo, what’re you doing here,’ kinda look,” she said. “I wanna write. I have a million stories and I’ve started putting them on paper, so what I’ll probably do is just compile them all into a book.”
What is the one piece of advice she could give to anyone of any age?
“Chase it. Chase your dreams. Chase ‘em down and wrestle them to the ground and do whatever your heart tells you to do. Don’t be sorry. Don’t end up being an old person who just never accomplished what they wanted to,” she said.
In May 2020, Chaffin will walk across a stage, accept her diploma, and be able to say, “Dad, I have kept my promise to you.”