Nontraditional student performs juggling act

Tomeka Kimbrough, a 37-year-old nontraditional freshman, moved out of Youngstown in 1993 but has since moved back and now juggles school, work and five children.

When South High School closed, she moved to Georgia, where she lived for 13 years.

“The reason I came back was because Youngstown is marketed pretty well outside of Youngstown,” Kimbrough said.

She noticed the phrase “Ohio Means Business” painted on billboards and printed in magazines in Atlanta, where she worked as a saleswoman and trainer in the insurance industry.

“I would read the Sky Mall magazine at the airport and see ‘Ohio Means Business’ ads,” she said. “I read about all the savings and tax breaks. After seeing that for many years, I thought maybe I could go home and do what I am doing in Atlanta.”

Plus, the cost of living in Youngstown is cheaper, she said.

Kimbrough is majoring in applied sociology and is conducting research in the field of corporate social responsibility.

“It’s all about how corporations are socially responsible for the society as a whole,” she said.  

Kimbrough said she relies on many campus resources in order to remain productive.  

“As a nontraditional student, you want to meet with your peer mentor,” she said. “Your peer mentor knows what you are going to go through. They can also tell you what help is here.”

Kimbrough added that nontraditional students should meet with their academic advisers as often as possible.

“[My adviser] always tells me something I just didn’t know,” she said. “These resources are important because they are going to guide you as a nontraditional student. There is also scholarships available on the YSU portal under financial aid.”

Kimbrough is engaged to Michael Barnes, who helps her with parenting duties. Her oldest daughter, 18-year-old Jessica, attends Ohio State University. Tommy, 15, and Abdul, 6, live out of town with family.

Her twins, Meka and Mike, are 3 years old.

“If something goes wrong or one of the twins are not feeling well, I step in to help,” Barnes said. “Since I work in the evenings, I am available to help in the morning.”

Kimbrough’s day starts off early, typically around 5:30 a.m. That’s when she watches WYTV 33 News with Stan Boney.

After around 30 minutes, she checks her email.

“I prepare for whatever I have to do for the day and put it all on a list,” Kimbrough said.

At 6:45 a.m., Kimbrough wakes up the twins and gets everyone dressed. She leaves the house around 7:30 a.m.

Wee Care Day Care at YSU — where she drops off the twins — is her first stop.

“Knowing that my babies are near makes me feel comfortable with my decision to go back to school,” Kimbrough said.

YSU President Cynthia Anderson recalled when there was no day care on campus.

“Many of our students today have children,” Anderson said. “We are now very fortunate to have a day care center. When Larry Simco and I ran for student government, that was our platform. The university needed a day care, and it is an absolute necessity in today’s world.”

Kimbrough’s psychology class starts at 8 a.m. Her next class is in Moser Hall at 10 a.m., so Kimbrough uses her break to “go to DeBartolo Hall and print work, check emails and use the lab in the sociology department.”

Next, it’s off to Maag Library where she researches and writes papers.

“I am usually home by 2 o’clock,” Kimbrough said, adding that she has four hours before picking up the twins.

She returns home with them around 6 p.m., which is when they eat dinner. Dinner is followed by an hour or two of relaxation before she gets them ready for bed.

Kimbrough said she follows a schedule that she posts in the kitchen and in her bedroom.

“I have to do this too because I cannot keep it all in my head,” she said. “This allows me to see what time I have available at a glance.”

Kimbrough spends any extra time consulting families and businesses on insurance with her company.

Joseph Caffey met Kimbrough at YSU during an investment seminar.

“Tomeka is a very impressive and knowledgeable young lady,” Caffey said. “I have known her for eight months, and she has grown and continues to want to learn more.”

Even though Kimbrough has found ways to accomplish her goals this semester, she still faces many struggles that are not so simple.

“As a black woman, I deal with lack of understanding in my own community, the lack of enthusiasm and ambition in my community, and the lack of wanting to better yourself,” she said. “Now that I am back at college, people look at me like, ‘Why are you doing this?’ In the black community, you are judged when you are doing good things, and you are judged when you are doing nothing, so it’s like you never win.”

For now, Kimbrough will continue attending school, being a mother and working.

“Nontraditional students are responsible adults,” she said. “We know what we need to do. We just don’t know how to do it because we have been out of school so long. But the resources available on campus are equipped to keep us going.”

1 comments Tomeka K. Fri Dec 2 2011 13:28 Thanks Candace, Dr. Qi, Theresa, Mr. Blake, and most of all my fiance Michael Barnes who helped me attend YSU……