Despite owning her own business as an adult (professional singer and writer), Tonya suffered from a severe lack of confidence. She grew up in an environment of severe poverty and abuse. Her lack of education was a source of extreme embarrassment for her and a subject of ridicule and jokes from her foster family, even as an adult. What Tonya eventually found out was that she was (and had been since she was born) legally blind and could not read much on the chalkboard, which impacted her ability to follow along in class. A high school counselor told her that she was not cut out for college and should just get married or become a secretary.
Tonya's lack of confidence overshadowed how she approached everything in her life. While she tried to go to college early on and was able to "catch up" in English and other subjects, she just could not understand math or science (despite extra studying and the help of tutors). It was the death of Tonya's favorite sister due to a drunk driver that motivated her to seize the moment, overcome her fear and go to college.
But her dreams were not to be realized at that time because Tonya was involved in an accident, had to relearn her ability to walk and would in later years require surgery requiring her to be put on disability. Despite all of her life's issues, Tonya met a counselor who encouraged her to pursue a college degree. She began attending Hartnell College in the fall of 2007. Tonya received her AA in Psychology in June 2009, earning a 4.0.
Tonya hopes to transfer to Yale or UCSC to obtain her BA in Psychology and then continue until she earns a PhD, at which point, she hopes to positively impact the treatment for individuals who have been diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder (psychopaths).
While she knows there is currently no "cure" for psychopaths, she plans to continue her focus and her search for a more effective treatment. From a very young age, despite her own problems, Tonya has worked to help others in her community. At the age of 17 Tonya was actively involved with the United Way with which ran two Wisconsin campaigns. She also worked closely with the Make a Wish Foundation and the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association. She most recently organized a Christmas party for children and families (over 150 people) who are living in squalid conditions in a tent city in Soledad California. She also wrote a Christmas book that was translated to Spanish and read to the families at the event.