By Elisabeth Costanzo Stewart

Tiffany Bolt has never allowed the fear of “fitting in” to hinder her professionally. While she genuinely understands the hesitation that many women feel as they contemplate entering the male-dominated fields within Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, Bolt chooses not to fixate on the reality that men heavily outnumber women in the majority of her classes. (A ratio that continues throughout the manufacturing industry.) Instead, Bolt chooses to focus on the doors that SUNY Broome’s Manufacturing Technology: A.A.S. has and will continue to open for her, and the stability that it provides, as she balances life as a single mother. 

Bolt was born in Port Crane, NY. When she was in the 4th grade, she moved with her family to Windsor, NY. Throughout her middle school years, Tiffany was plagued with several intensive shoulder surgeries. Due to her regular pre and post-operative absences from school, her parents opted to educate her at home. With her health improving, Bolt’s previous teachers encouraged her to re-enter the public school system. After expressing her feelings of being overwhelmed by the transition back into mainstream education, Tiffany was offered a seat at the Harpursville Alternative School, which at the time was run by Broome-Tioga BOCES. 

“I didn’t really like school when I was young. I always felt like a bit of an outcast who didn’t fully fit in, but even with all of my medical leaves, I was able to graduate with a regents diploma,” said Bolt. 

After graduating, Tiffany directly entered the workforce. She hopped between a few fast-food restaurants and gas stations before accepting her first job in manufacturing. As the daughter of assemblers and production workers, entering the manufacturing industry seemed like a natural next step. During the next few years, Bolt worked for several manufacturing companies in the region and gave birth to her daughter and son, Isabella and Ares. She attempted to come to SUNY Broome in 2011, but the combination of being a young, working mom and a first-time college student became too overwhelming. 

We are often reminded of the adage that “friends are like elevators… they can either bring you up or bring you down.” Bolt doesn’t hesitate to admit that one particular friendship brought her down to the lowest period of her life. 

“I met the wrong person. It was as simple as that. That relationship exposed me to an environment where drugs were always free and readily available. As a result, I struggled for years with addiction. During my darkest low, I lost all of my relationships with my family and was not allowed to be with my children. My rock bottom moment was when I realized that I was truly alone. I remember saying, ‘God, do what you will with me,” and that moment propelled me to finally admit that I needed help,” shared Bolt. 

Bolt spent the next few years receiving comprehensive care from some of the region’s top rehabilitative programs. Through the support of these programs, coupled with continued mental health counseling, Tiffany was able to maintain her life in recovery and rebuild her relationships with her children. 

A portion of Bolt’s recovery plan was devoted to career development. She started slowly, but the completion of each certificate or microcredential did wonders for rebuilding Tiffany’s self-esteem. When it came time to tackle her next workforce development skill, Bolt was offered a spot in the coveted Opportunity Impact Training Program (OITP) in Manufacturing, which is collaboratively facilitated by Broome-Tioga Workforce NY, SUNY Broome, and area employers.

Through the OITP, Bolt spent four intensive weeks on campus, gaining exposure to concepts in measuring devices, blueprint reading, lean manufacturing, root cause analysis, technical writing, Excel, and more. At the conclusion of the program, she met and interviewed with several local employers, ultimately receiving a job offer from Triple Cities Metal Finishing. 

Bolt in her element in the lab.
Photo Credits: Matt Ebbers

Inspired by her training from the Opportunity Impact Training Program (OITP), Bolt enrolled in SUNY Broome’s Manufacturing Technology: A.A.S. program to continue to develop her technical skills in advanced manufacturing. Navigating the ins and outs of college for the first time as a non-traditional  student certainly can be daunting, but Bolt is a firm believer in asking questions and seeking out SUNY Broome’s abundant student support services. Throughout her time as a SUNY Broome student, Tiffany has taken advantage of supplemental instruction, tutoring, academic coaching, and regularly meeting with her professors during office hours. Seeking support isn’t just limited to the classroom. Resources like SUNY Broome’s Student Financial Services Department, the SUNY Broome Foundation, and Counseling Services have been critical to Tiffany’s success. 

“My experiences with addiction and recovery have taught the value of recognizing the need for help and seeking it. I managed to ask for help when I was at the lowest point in my life, so asking a professor for help with a lesson that I don’t understand is easy. All my professors get to know me early on because I am constantly asking questions,” shared Bolt. 

Life for Tiffany rarely includes a moment to rest, but that is the way she likes it. In addition to caring for her children and her mother, tackling college courses, and working the 12-hour weekend shift as a machine operator and certified solderer at BAE, Tiffany remains an active member of the recovery community. She believes that staying connected to mental health care resources and support programs is critical to maintaining sobriety. 

“If my story encourages just one person, then I will be happy.”

Have you been inspired by Tiffany’s journey? Are you a single parent and a student struggling to work, study, and take care of your family? The Family Empowerment Program (FEP) is here to help! Email Lorie Brewer for more information on how the Family Empowerment Program can support your academic success!

“If my story encourages just one person, then I will be happy.”
Photo Credit: Matt Ebbers

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