Since sixth grade, Tahyae Rimson knew she wanted to go to college. Unlike many middle schoolers, she was already planning how to pay for it.
“I’ve always been aware my needs are different than other students.” Rimson said. She recognized early that education was a key to success. “As a first-generation student – I didn’t know what that meant – you don’t know how to get there.”
At Sherman Middle School in Madison, she learned about a pre-college program through UW-Madison that provided college preparation and financial opportunities for diverse students in grades 6-12. “I wanted to be successful. I wanted them to pay for college,” Rimson said.
Knowing her strength in math, Rimson’s math teacher told her mom she should register. An English teacher helped her polish the required essay. She participated in college prep programs for the next six years, including Precollege Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence (PEOPLE) at UW-Madison. She learned study skills, organization and time management and prepared for college entrance exams.
She also toured various campuses through the nonoprofit Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID). Rimson participated in UW-Stevens Point’s multicultural leadership camp in the summer of 2018 and enjoyed the welcoming experience. But she wanted to leave Wisconsin for college.
Then she received a brochure about LEAP, a mentoring program that provides a supportive community to help ease the transition to college and promote student success at UW-Stevens Point. New students are paired with mentors who are upper-level students chosen for their leadership skills and willingness to share their knowledge. Rimson liked that LEAP students spend a week together before fall classes begin, learning about campus and strategies to make a successful transition. They move to residence halls two days early.
This program helped Rimson decided UW-Stevens Point was the right fit. “I’m very adaptable but I like to transition myself.”
Her mentor, Zatasia Johnson, was a huge help. She introduced her to campus resources and ways to get involved, how to manage stress and recognize when she needed help. “She held me accountable. She was like a big sister. I really looked up to her,” Rimson said.
Johnson introduced her to Sigma Delta Rho, a multicultural sorority on campus, which promotes service, diversity, responsibility and leadership. Rimson is now president of the group – and is preparing for its annual Decades Dance Feb. 25 in the Dreyfus University Center.
“That started my active involvement on campus,” she said. Rimson has volunteered for American Red Cross blood drives on campus, Humane Society events and raked lawns in the community on Make a Difference Day. An RA, she then became Smith Hall desk manager.
Rimson also became a LEAP mentor, which may be her biggest “ah-ha” moment of her time at UW-Stevens Point. She learned it’s important to listen, support and offer options to mentees but not to “carry the weight of others’ emotions,” she said. “How to be a resource without making it your problem” is an important balancing act, one that will serve through life.
Rimson meets challenges head-on, said Trisha Lamers, Tutoring-Learning Center director and LEAP/LEAD+ Program director. “She puts on her armor for daily challenges and she pushes through, but she has a kind and generous heart. Life has not handed her a straight and flat path with clear signage. I have watched her be consistently challenged. I have even watched her fall down. But I have also watched her get back up, dust herself off, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. She is amazing. She has been an inspiration to her peers in LEAP, to her LEAD+ mentees, to her Sigma Delta Rho sisters and to many others of us who have been blessed enough to have her in our lives,” Lamers said.
A business administration major, Rimson has had interest in business from a young age. She has already started a business styling hair while in college. Yae’s Beauty provides income, builds relationships and meets a need in Stevens Point and back home, she said.
She’s exploring career options. An internship at American Family Insurance helped her realize accounting and finance are not her passions. “I found that I’m pretty good at a lot of things.” Rimson hopes to get a real estate internship this summer. She will graduate in December 2022.
“I learned so much while I was here, and grew so much. That’s what college is all about, right?”