Tammy Montgomery walked by Amador College Connect for five months before getting the courage to go in to inquire about taking online college courses. She had lost her home in Calaveras County in the Butte Fire, was in temporary housing with no computer and the one online class she had taken when working on an A.A. degree two decades earlier had not been a positive experience.

One year later, Montgomery is the recipient of two scholarships and is halfway through a certificate in Human Services at Coastline Community College. She is in the Amador Behavioral Health Department’s Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) scholarship program and in May she received the “Re-entry” Scholarship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW). She plans to use the AAUW award to finance a B.A. degree through Arizona State University Online.

Montgomery explains her impetus for studying Human Services, “to give back to my home community of Calaveras and to Amador County. Each of these counties has given me so much support when I needed help.”

Like all MHSA Scholarship students, Montgomery brings deep life experience to her academic studies. MHSA Scholarships are awarded to students who have a desire to work in public mental health, with priority given to those who have personal, first-hand experience with mental illness either as a client or as a family member of a client. These students receive financial aid to cover tuition and books for a certificate or A.A. degree programs in Human Services from Coastline; they also receive stipends to attend local human services training. Montgomery, for example, has supplemented her academic work with over 200 hours of training on such topics as the Adverse Childhood Experiences study (ACES), Peer-to-Peer counseling, Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP) and Court-Appointed Special Advocate training (CASA). She was recently accepted into the Workforce Integration Support and Education U (WISE U) program and will complete that 90-hour training in July.

As a person who has experienced great personal loss, Montgomery aspires to help others in need in our community. Her longstanding ambition has been to counsel adults and children who have experienced loss. Montgomery has been fascinated by what she has learned about the effect of trauma on children’s brain development and she would like to help reduce trauma experienced by children, particularly infants. She is enthusiastic about getting the word out about trauma and would love to teach others about the research proving its detrimental effects on brain development.

After raising five children, one might think Montgomery would be ready to sit back and relax. She laughs when recounting the AAUW awards ceremony when she was referred to, along with other scholarship recipients, as “a young lady.” For Montgomery, age is just a number. With no plans to sit back, Montgomery eagerly anticipates taking advantage of even more courses and training through Amador College Connect as the means to help herself, her family and her community.