Choose KU, Choose the World
by Jaclyn Miley '17
Tony Riggins, a December 2016 graduate, inspires the community with his story about taking those steps across the stage during Kutztown University's commencement ceremony.
Riggins currently works as a long-term substitute teacher at Brandywine Heights Intermediate School in Topton, Pa. Four years ago, he would have never expected to be in this position.
Riggins began his journey on KU's campus in 1989, but did not have an exact path in mind, so he began to work full time instead of attending classes. After taking some time off - 22 years to be exact - and getting involved in the world of education as a career, he knew he had to go back to school.
Riggins was frustrated because of the obstacles he built up in his head about not being able to come back and finish out his degree.
"It was too late to come back and it would be too hard with work, family and school work." Riggins had thought. "I just couldn't see myself going back to school."
But he knew he wanted to be a teacher, and in order to do so he had to have a degree. In November of 2012, Riggins finally made that call to Admissions and was pleasantly surprised.
"KU just made it so easy and every person I came in contact with was so accommodating. Admissions even still had my credits on file from '89. Before I hung up, I was enrolled to go back in January 2013. I'll never forget that phone call because I pushed it off for so long, but it changed my life."
The first meeting he made was with Dr. Jeanie Burnett, chair of the Elementary Education Department, to get more information about declaring his major in elementary education.
"I chose to be an elementary ed. grades 4-8 major because I think that these are critical years for children and I want to be a positive part of their growth. Children at these ages are learning who they are and who they'd like to be and I would love be someone they could look up to...and maybe look back and say that I had a positive impact on them."
Burnett helped Riggins to get his plan on track to graduate, and he made sure after leaving her office to take advantage of every resource KU had to offer.
"My journey through KU was great. I was a tutor, got in involved in clubs, intramural sports and always went to the gym. My son even loved it when he came to visit with me and wants to come here when he goes to college."
Riggins hopes his story will help give someone the motivation to further their education no matter what path in life they are currently taking. He believed his obstacles in his head were holding him back but now he is in front of the classroom following his dream.
"Anyone who wants to come back to school but is hesitant to begin the process, I would tell them that all they would have to do is make that first call. They should not hesitate or make excuses. If it's something they really want to pursue, they will regret not making the effort. I would tell them ‘you got this, and Kutztown University has your back.'"