To say that Tara Firmin is invested in the success of students at Tarrant County College would be an understatement. She has dedicated more than 14 years of her career to TCC students. As a founding staff member of TCC Trinity River, she has seen the campus transition from a small section of the former RadioShack headquarters to expanding throughout the complex. Over that time, she has skillfully and compassionately helped many students achieve their educational goals.
As director of Academic Affairs –Operations, Firmin works with students on academic suspension to guide them to resources and courses to get them back on track. With the variety of reasons students may be struggling—everything from demanding coursework to difficulties in their personal lives—she describes her position as a ‘Swiss Army knife. No two days are ever the same.’
In addition to guiding students through their academic challenges, Firmin is a longtime supporter of the TCC Foundation, the fundraising arm of TCC. The Foundation provides philanthropic support to students through scholarships, the student emergency fund and other initiatives. While completing her doctorate in higher education and working full time, Firmin also served on the scholarship selection committee, spending hours reading scholarship applicants’ essays. “I love serving on the committee,” said Firmin. “It allows me to peer into students’ lives and see what they are facing.”
Firmin and her husband Ken recently created a TCC scholarship to honor her mother’s memory. “My mom was a force,” Firmin remembered. “She was smart, talented and a hard worker. She was a plumber’s apprentice, carpenter, truck driver, and for many years, worked for the City of Lewisville maintaining the athletic fields.” Like all moms, Firmin’s mother Susan Nayback was very busy, but she never missed an opportunity to support her daughter at Girl Scouts activities, cheerleading and softball games.
When time allowed, Nayback loved to garden, and she took great pleasure in showing off her flowers and perfect yard. When Nayback could no longer handle the physical demands of gardening, she took up painting on canvas and cards. “I often had people ask to purchase her cards, and instead of taking payment for them, my mom would ask people to donate to the Tarrant Food Bank. At times she could have used the money but wanted the money to go to her community to help others,” Firmin said.
Those fond memories guided Firmin in establishing the Susan Nayback Horticulture Appreciation Scholarship. As a first-generation college student and first in her family to earn a Ph.D., Firmin greatly appreciated her mother’s support—and believes Nayback would be proud to know she inspired a scholarship for more students pursuing higher education, especially horticulture studies. “Her gardening talents skip generations,” smiled Firmin, “so I’m glad others can carry on her legacy.”
The Firmins are members of the Chancellor’s Giving Circle, a group of donors who give at least $1,000 annually to the TCC Foundation. Explained Firmin: “Ken and I are at a point where we can commit to giving at this level financially, and it’s important to us and my mom that we tend to our community.”
Visit the TCC Foundation website to get more information about the TCC Foundation or to donate to student scholarships at TCC.