Tiffany Rikard

At age 18, Tiffany Rikard became a homeless, teenage mother to an infant son. This set off a chain of events that have led her to North Carolina A&T State University where she will earn her bachelor’s degree in psychology in May.

Rikard, 34, is now a mother of four and has traveled quite the road on her journey to college graduate. That road has taken her all the way to China. For six weeks, she studied Daoism, traditional Chinese medicine, moxibustion, acupuncture, medicinal herbs and community health issues.

“My interest in nontraditional healing methods sparked my interest in SIT’s China: Traditional Chinese Medicine and Community Health Program,” Rikard said.

“We traveled to remote villages in Weibaoshan, Dali, Lijiang, Zhongdian and Eryuan hot springs. In those rural areas densely populated with minorities, we studied Chinese medicine comparatively.”

The Chinese experience for Rikard was “surreal” at times. She felt as though she was observing these things from a distance.

“I climbed mountains, visited the living Buddha, visited a Tibetian orphanage – there were times when the scenery and peaceful surroundings were so overwhelming that I wept,” she said.

Studying in China is something a lot of high school dropouts don’t get a chance to do. Then again, a lot of high school dropouts don’t have Rikard’s drive.

She received her GED from Guilford Technical Community College and took a job with Moses Cone Health System as a certified nursing assistant.  Seven years later she returned to GTCC to earn her diploma in practical nursing. After that, she worked two jobs for 7 days a week for a full year to purchase a suitable home in a safe environment for her children. Shortly after that, she split with her husband and decided she needed to be an example for her children.

“I value education and I wanted to be sure they understood the value of a good education as well. I re-entered school. This time I followed my passion,” Rikard said.

She has since opened a small business from her home providing Reiki therapy, Japanese healing touch for stress reduction, and has completed an 8-month course for massage therapy. Rikard is also a full-time student, full-time charge nurse at a long-term care and rehabilitation facility and has managed this all while maintaining a 3.83 GPA.

“Becoming a teenage mother and high school dropout caused me to measure my success and progress, not by the success of my peers, but by my own markings,” she said.

“I had no examples of women in my position. All I knew to do was to continue to strive. I created a cycle of dreaming and obtaining those dreams. China was necessary.”

After graduation, Rikard plans to enter the N.C. A&T counseling program and expand her small business to create a center for inner peace offering Reiki, massage therapy as well as marital and family counseling.