Taryn Williams

Student | Long Beach

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"CSU Long Beach embraced me. I truly feel like people want me to succeed."

​Growing up, Taryn Williams endured drug addiction and physical abuse and ended up in foster care. At one point, she'd given up all hope. Now she's healthy, considering a doctorate—and a President's Scholar at CSU Long Beach.

Taryn Williams was a junior in high school when she could no longer outrun the trauma she'd experienced as a child.

In spite of the chaos of her early years, she received good grades and always loved to learn. "I was in the honors program in high school; I was in AP classes," remembers Williams. But her early childhood was rife with uncertainty—constant moves, a drug-filled home life, physical abuse and finally foster care.

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Eventually, she moved in with her father and grandmother, who laid down strict rules. That worked for a while, but when Williams's grandmother passed away when she was 15, everything fell apart.

"My dad worked long hours," she says. "I wasn't under supervision and fell into the wrong crowd. The lifestyle surrounding my drug use fueled truancy, until I couldn't manage going to school. I was like, I'm gonna end up like my folks anyway, so what's the point of trying?" By her junior year, her GPA was plummeting; one semester, she got a 0.2.

From Incarceration to Inspiration

Williams was able to graduate from high school, but things got worse again. Her father was laid off and moved away, leaving her with nowhere to live.

Addicted to heroin and couch surfing, she was stuck in a cycle of arrests for drug offenses and eventually charged with armed robbery. While serving two years in prison, she got sober and began putting her life back together.

Once released, Williams set her focus on one goal: getting her education back on track. She signed up for the associate degree for transfer program at Long Beach City College. While there, she earned only As.

When it came time to choose a university to get her bachelor's degree, she didn't have to look beyond her hometown; Williams transferred to California State University, Long Beach in August 2018.

"CSU Long Beach was able to address all parts of me, not just the high-achieving student, but the low-income, first-generation, formerly incarcerated, former foster youth, Jewish mother," says Williams, who has 3-year-old twins, Isaiah and McKayla.

Williams is pursuing a bachelor's in business administration with a double option in management and operations and supply chain management; her minor is economics. She works part-time in addition to attending school full-time and raising her children, who readily provide inspiration at the end of a long day.

"Education," says Williams, "is going to elevate me to a level where I can provide for my family."

“CSU Long Beach was able to address all parts of me, not just the high-achieving student, but the low-income, first-generation, formerly incarcerated, former foster youth, Jewish mother.” — Taryn Williams

Finding Her Beach Family

When Williams received her acceptance email to CSU Long Beach, there was another piece of very good news: She'd received a President's Scholarship, CSULB's most prestigious merit-based award. "I freaked out," she says. "I wanted to fall over I was so happy."

What made the award even more exciting is that she didn't even realize she'd applied for it. "The first thing I did was hop on Google to see what it was because I didn't know."

Her welcome to CSULB could hardly have been warmer: Williams was met with a billboard celebrating her President's Scholar achievement. "I have been embraced, and I can't tell you how many faculty and administrative personnel have sent me emails saying, 'If you need help with anything, let me know,'" she says with a smile. "I truly feel like people want me to succeed ... I felt a part of The Beach family since before I stepped foot on campus." 

Her hope is that she can show those who've walked in her shoes what's possible. "It's less about me and more about people who don't have anyone rooting for them," says Williams. 

"Society puts people like me in boxes and says they will never be employable, ethical or honest. It's important to flip that idea on its head." 


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