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Troy Graduate Delivers For Her Daughter

CONTACT: Jeff Foley (518) 629-8085 or (518) 373-1262
FOR RELEASE: Immediate, Wednesday, January 10, 2001

At first glance, Itasha Hilton appeared on the road to success in 1997. Just a year from graduating at Troy High School, she had a solid family life, living with both parents and a brother and sister, was involved in church activities, and planned to attend college.

Then the high school senior got pregnant.

"It was a shock in the beginning," said Hilton, now 20. "It kind of knocked me over the head."

How many times have you heard this story? Girl gets pregnant, drops out of school to have a baby, goes on public assistance and never reaches her potential.

Hilton tells a different tale.

"I knew I couldn't play around anymore," the single mother said. "I had to straighten up if I was going to take care of another human being."

Hilton didn't miss a beat at Troy High, attending classes as her belly swelled – "I wanted to graduate with my friends." – and earning her diploma on time. She gave birth in the summer of 1998, to a daughter, Qiessence, and was anxious to enroll in college.

"It was always embedded in me to go to college," Hilton said. "I wanted to go right away, but my mom encouraged me to take some time to get used to the motherhood thing."

Hilton sat out one semester, then signed up at Hudson Valley Community College for the spring 1999 semester. She hit her stride immediately, making the Dean's List on her first attempt.

"I said, ‘Wow, that was simple," Hilton said. "You just have to push yourself."

The lifelong Troy resident made the Dean's List every ensuing semester and will receive a Criminal Justice degree in May. Hilton said she stumbled upon Criminal Justice and was hooked.

"I'm really interested in forensics," Hilton said. "I probably would have followed my family into the business and administration field, but I don't want to be stuck behind a desk writing memos. When I took a forensics class, when I experienced it, it was something I could see myself doing. Plus, nobody else I know has done anything in the criminal justice field, so I figured, why don't I?"

Hilton now plans to study forensics at UAlbany.

"I'm going to keep going while I can, while I have the support," she said. "It's been extremely hard. It's hard enough to take care of yourself, let alone take care of a daughter and pay your bills. It's a lot. And being young, you want nice things. But I'll wait. When I get my degree, hopefully everything will come back to me. You just have to be patient."

Hilton, who credits her family for much of her success – they've been extremely supportive throughout her pregnancy and the years that followed, lending a helping hand whenever needed – says Hudson Valley was the right choice for somebody in her shoes.

"Hudson Valley Community College was a great, great stepping stone for me," Hilton said. "It helped me evolve into a person who looks at things in a different perspective.

"Hudson Valley taught me a lot. I'm thankful for everybody there that helped me. Everybody I dealt with wanted to see me succeed. It's nice to know that they're looking out for you."

Hudson Valley Community College, located in Troy, offers more than 50 degree and certificate programs in four academic divisions; Business; Engineering and Industrial Technologies; Health Sciences; and Liberal Arts and Sciences. One of 30 community colleges in the State University of New York system, Hudson Valley has an enrollment of more than 9,000 students each year, and is known as a leader in distance learning initiatives and worker retraining.