MOORHEAD — Tory Queensley was a little nervous when he started speaking in front of Minnesota State Community and Technical College faculty, staff, and alumni, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle.
The Williston, North Dakota native has already gone through a lot to get to this point as he graduates at the Fall M-State ceremony at Concordia College on Friday, December 16th.
Queensley, 31, is a recovering addict and a single mother who goes to school and works as a janitor at Concordia.
She is currently a Registered Nurse (RN) and a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from North Dakota State University.
Queensley is doing it for the light of life for her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Declin.
“I just wanted to do something that I could be very successful in and give her everything I didn’t have,” she said.
But Queensley would not have reached this point without help.
She participates in the Jeremiah Program, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to end the cycle of poverty for single mothers and their children, two generations at a time.
The program’s Fargo campus has 20 units and opened in 2018.
Participants receive affordable apartments while they work and pursue college or other career paths, and their children receive on-site childcare and development.
Amy Klein, director of family services at Jeremiah in Fargo, said it’s been exciting to see the women grow from day one to graduation.
“They are completely different people. Being with them on that journey is the best job a person could ask for,” Klein said.
Although extroverted and talkative, Queensley said she usually doesn’t like asking for help, but through her recovery she’s learned that she can’t do it alone.
“Being able to do that and be able to get help without judgment is invaluable,” she said.
Only recently did Queensley realize that.
Moving from Minot to Fargo during her freshman year in high school led to poor decisions, she says, “getting nowhere very quickly.”
She sought addiction recovery from time to time, but fell into addiction.
But when she found out she was pregnant, everything changed and she began looking for support to make meaningful improvements in her life.
In 2021, Queensley stumbled upon a Facebook ad for the Jeremiah Program and called to start her current path.
She intends to remain in the Jeremiah Program while continuing her nursing education and has accepted a job at Sanford Health as an LPN resource “float”.
She can start as soon as she passes the nursing license exam she hopes to take in January.
After schooling and clinical experience, I found Nursing in Queensley to be a good fit.
“I realized that helping and serving people was one of the best things I could ever do and I was good at it,” she said.
Queensley received shouts of encouragement from the crowd as she delivered her speech and crossed the stage to receive recognition.
There was only one relative in the auditorium, but dozens of people from her recovery community were there to cheer her on.
Klein proudly watched Queensley’s speech via the Commencement Livestream, as winter weather and a closed interstate prevented her from being there in person. .
“Of course, her speech, as I knew it, was funny,” Klein said.
Queensley said her fellow alumni had something in common.
“As long as you can accept that your dreams may not go according to plan, you will find satisfaction in pursuing your dreams,” she said.