posted November 1, 2018
By: Sonya Lavett
Toya Simon knows a thing or two about weathering storms. A native of the Virgin Islands and one of nine children, Simon was determined to doggedly pursue an education and earn her bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in finance
. Working her way through school was no easy task as she chose not to apply for student loans, but rather fund her courses one at a time.
A single mother, Simon has big dreams. She wants to be the boss; not just any boss, but a true leader
who demonstrates compassion, trustworthiness and a spirit of generosity.
“My hope and dream is to live a life of purpose,” said Simon.
She lives in an area that could easily be described as paradise. Many vacationers travel to the Virgin Islands each year to enjoy the sand and surf, maybe do some snorkeling and relish some memorable sunsets.
The downside of living on these islands is that they are often in a direct path for hurricanes. In September 2017, the residents felt the full brunt of Mother Nature, being hit by not one, but two Category 5 storms. Simon’s beautiful paradise was completely leveled. Many of her neighbors were not able to evacuate so there was the added trauma of riding out the destructive and violent storms.
The islands experienced massive flooding, missing roofs, decimated wildlife, no running water and prolonged power outages. Homes were completely wiped out, not to mention the loss of human lives. Because this is an island where new resources must be shipped over, the process to rebuild can take an excruciatingly long time.
Devastation is not a strong enough description for the intensity and the aftermath of these storms.
Still, despite the trauma of enduring these catastrophic events, Simon continues to demonstrate the kind of drive and determination that only comes from someone who believes in a higher power and the beauty of her dreams.
A proud and devoted CSU Knight Ambassador, Simon is always eager to reach out to others to share encouragement and knowledge. She understands that setbacks, even the most difficult ones, are the precipice to emerging stronger and wiser. She refuses to allow any roadblocks to slow her down.
Describing one of her setbacks, Simon said, “my greatest disappointment was in allowing my fear of failure to stymie my education; however, I overcame that by employing self-confidence.”
Thus embodies the true spirit of the Columbia Southern University family.
A degree is so much more than the end of an endeavor and much more than just a document with the title of a degree. For Simon and her family, her education means something far deeper; an education means dispelling ignorance and garnering proficiency in order to pursue her dreams.
Simon has completed this portion of her journey when she achieved her degree at CSU. Yet, she knows this is only the beginning of many good things to come.
Our Knight Ambassadors take on many roles. They are here to encourage, provide resources, inspire and motivate. In sharing their stories, they connect with others who may be struggling or need a word of reassurance in order to recognize that they are not alone and that they can overcome anything that steps in their way.
If you feel that you embody this type of paying-it-forward spirit
and are interested in learning more about becoming a Knight Ambassador, please reach out and discover how you too can contribute to bettering the lives of your fellow Knights.
This story was originally published in the fall 2018 edition of the CSU Alumni Magazine