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Mother and daughter, Tangenicka and Chyna Williams, hug at the USC Upstate Quad. They were among more than 600 graduates who were honored at spring commencement. (Photos by Justin Myrick, USC Upstate) 

 

Side by Side: ‘Family of two’ graduate together

Information courtesy of USC Upstate


When Tangenicka “Tange” Williams graduated from her licensed practical nurse program at Greenville Technical College, her baby girl, Chyna, was right there with her.

At her pinning ceremony a few months earlier, there were signs her daughter may one day follow her footsteps.

“This day here let me know that it was only the beginning,” Williams said, pointing to a 1999 photo.

“We all graduated during Christmas, so we made nurses’ hats for the Christmas tree. My friends took my nursing hat off and they placed it on Chyna’s head. She was 6 months old,” Williams recalls. But she knew already, “She’s going to be a nurse like her mom.’”

That dream, as well as many others, was realized on April 30, when Williams and her daughter  graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). They are among the more than 600 USC Upstate graduates who received a degree during spring commencement.


A family of two

The full circle moment brings tears to the eyes of both mother and daughter, but it wasn’t always so certain. As Chyna Williams grew up, she wasn’t convinced she was going to be a nurse, and her mother never pushed it on her.

“I said, ‘OK, Chyna, that’s fine, because nursing is special. It’s a gift. It’s a ministry. You’re a vessel,’” Williams said. “If you don’t have it, it definitely will show in you.”

But her daughter surprised her during senior year of high school.

“Someone came up to her and said, ‘Chyna, what are you going to school for?’” her mother remembers. “And she said, ‘I’m going to school to be a nurse like my mom.’ And I was blown away, because once she told me she didn’t want to do it, I didn’t press it. But when she actually said that’s what she wanted to do, I said, ‘Now she’s ready.’”

The Williamses are from Laurens, South Carolina. They resemble each other, from their shared professional interests and love of music to their warm smiles and personalities. Their June birthdays are just five days apart.

Tange Williams came from humble beginnings, and she reminds her daughter of how different her childhood was compared with hers and the privileges she has being the only child on both sides of their family.

Despite financial challenges, Williams says she grew up wanting to help people. She experienced seizures as a child and wanted to learn why. Her godsisters were nurses, which gave her an up-close view of the profession.

“That’s the thing for me – being able to give back to others,” Williams says.

Her daughter was inspired by her compassion. “I just wanted to be the same way, because I would always run into people saying, ‘Your mom is such a blessing, your mom is such a blessing.’ I’m like, ‘I know. She raised me, and she is my backbone.’”

As a child, if someone had a problem, Chyna Williams knew immediately who to call. “I could be in on a field trip – and, of course, my mom would be right there with us – somebody’s got a little ‘boo-boo.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, get my mom. My mom can fix it. She’s a nurse.’ I just always looked up to her as the person I could call on, the person I could lean on.”


 

The road to greater heights

While her daughter was in school, Tange Williams continued her education at Greenville Tech. She earned an associate degree, becoming a registered nurse, or RN, in 2008. By the time her daughter completed her own program at Greenville Tech in 2023, Williams was already thinking about going back to school.

Her daughter was transferring to USC Upstate, so it seemed inevitable the two would begin the next phase of their educational journeys together. They started the BSN program in 2023.

One day a week, they joined other students at the Greenville campus. Tange Williams loved the in-person interactions: “To be able to raise my hand and ask a question with a professor being there is awesome,” she says.

In addition to supportive faculty and staff, mother and daughter had each other to lean on, from reminding each other about deadlines to navigating materials on the computer. The classroom experience allowed them to learn more about each other as peers.

Outside of the classroom, both Williamses work in geriatrics: Chyna Williams is a night shift nurse, and her mother is assistant director of nursing at NHC HealthCare in Laurens, where she’s worked for 24 years.

“Everyone loves to see us working together, because she grew up in the facility as a baby,” says Tange Williams. “Now she’s the nurse in the facility.”

As the two talk, they look at a photo of the two of them in a collage Tange Williams created. The journey that started years ago with a baby girl attending her mom’s graduation is ending with mother and daughter crossing the Quad together to receive their diplomas.

“This is a family of two, and this is a family of completion. Whatever we start, we definitely will finish. If we have no one else, we got each other,” Tange Williams said. “We started this. We’re going to end this together, hand in hand as they say both of our names, and we’re going to walk down that aisle. And we did it.”

Watch more of Tange and Chyna’s story at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EV1TinKmqr4. See the mother and daughter on the “Sherri” show at sherrishowtv.com. 

 

 

 

 

The Blackrock Foundation invests in Spartanburg Academic Movement 

Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM) recently announced a $1.5 million grant award from The BlackRock Foundation. The new funds will enable SAM to support the creation of cradle-to-career model in Union County, while also granting funds to local Union County based direct service providers serving youth and families, and deepening no-cost professional training for local educators.

The cradle-to-career model emphasizes continuous education and skill development from early childhood through adulthood, aligning educational efforts with workforce needs. By providing comprehensive support and guidance at every stage of development, SAM’s model helps individuals gain the necessary skills, knowledge, and resources to pursue their careers and succeed in the workforce.

SAM’s success as a leading education-focused nonprofit in Spartanburg County led to the planning and development of Movement 2030, a 7.5-year comprehensive cradle-to-career plan for Spartanburg County. Movement 2030 has garnered significant philanthropic support, totaling $100 million from notable contributors including Blue Meridian Partners, The Duke Endowment, Blue Cross Blue Shield South Carolina and over a dozen individual, corporate, and philanthropic investors locally. Notably, SAM recently secured a 5-year, $15 million Full-Service Community Schools grant from the Department of Education. This grant will bolster two Spartanburg School Districts, leveraging Movement 2030 as its core framework for sustainable impact.

"Union County and Spartanburg are more than just neighboring communities; we're partners in progress, united in our commitment to building a brighter future together,” said Spartanburg Aca-demic Movement CEO and StriveTogether Board Chair Dr. Russell Booker. “The BlackRock Founda-tion recognizes that the success of Union's children is paramount to the future local workforce. Our shared vision extends from early childhood education to career development, fostering a cradle-to-career pipeline of opportunity. With over a dozen years on this cradle-to-career journey, we are eager to support Union as they craft a plan tailored to their community's needs.”

 

 

 

 

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Connie O’Neill, founder of Big Play in a Box, and LaShonn Edmunds, founder of CAIRS Shoes, received Greer Moves grants. City of Greer / The Platform at Greer photo 

 

Two female founders awarded Greer Moves grants

Information courtesy of The City of Greer


A new non-profit designed to support entrepreneurs and innovators has awarded its first round of grants to two women with a passion for helping others.

Greer Moves announced the recipients at The Platform at Greer’s May Huddle event. Occupa-tional therapist, Connie O’Neill, the founder of Big Play in a Box, will receive a $15,000 grant. LaShonn Edmunds, the founder of CAIRS Shoes, will get a $10,000 grant. Graduates of The Platform’s Boot-camp program are eligible to apply for the grants.

“Both grant recipients have remarkable business ideas that serve worthy causes and inspire us with their potential to make a significant impact,” said Philippe Barreaud of Greer Moves. “By providing seed funding, we are investing in a bright future for entrepreneurship in Greer.”

Big Play in a Box offers subscriptions and gifts for children ages three to eight. The boxes are full of carefully curated items and activities that offer tangible alternatives to screens.

O’Neill said becoming part of a community like The Platform at Greer can help make your dreams a reality. “I have made relationships that have guided me, made me face some hard truths, cheered me on, and almost more importantly have become friends,” O’Neill said. “Thank you, Greer, for making even the smallest of businesses feel big.”

LaShonn Edmunds has an incurable condition called lymphedema, which causes chronic swelling in her feet. She couldn’t find any fashionable shoes on the market that would stretch with her feet, so Edmunds invented shoes that would. CAIRS Shoes officially launched on World Lymphedema Day this spring.

“I am so grateful to be a part of such an incredible business community that cares, supports, and creates solutions each step of the way,” said Edmunds. “Having love and support from other entrepreneurs who’ve been down these roads truly gives me hope and lets me know I’m not on this journey alone.”

BMW, Countybank, and Michelin are sponsors of the Greer Moves initiative.

Kevin Duncan is Countybank’s Greer Market Executive and a board member of Greer Moves. “Countybank's grant donation to The Platform at Greer's Bootcamp shows our dedication to local entrepreneurs,” said Duncan. “I have enjoyed being involved with the Bootcamps and have seen firsthand how Countybank’s support and the Platform Launch Package equip startups for success."

 

 

 

 

Greenville Zoo mourns the death of second African lion

Information courtesy of Greenville Zoo


It was with deep sadness that the Greenville Zoo said goodbye to its remaining African lion. Chuma was humanely euthanized at the age of 15 due to a rapid and irreversible worsening of his degenerative joint disease and spinal neurological issues. 

He had been under treatment for these orthopedic changes and was being monitored with bloodwork and other diagnostic testing. These past few weeks, he showed more negative progression that further impacted his quality of life. Zoo staff met to discuss his health status and the consensus for his wellbeing was for him to be humanely euthanized. 

“It's a difficult decision. It's one that we try to approach objectively, subjectively and collaboratively with all the stakeholders who are involved in his care," said Greenville Zoo Veterinarian Dr. Nick Kapustin. "With anyone who’s had to consider euthanizing their pet, there's a lot in play, but the bottom line is we want him to have a good end of life. It should be peaceful and not with discomfort and we reached that point with him.” 

Chuma came to the Greenville Zoo from the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC, in 2010. He inspired millions of zoo visitors over his lifetime and will be greatly missed. The zoo is developing plans for a remembrance and ways for the community to share condolences. The City of Greenville and the Greenville Zoo are working on a strategy to bring back lions in the future.