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by Sabrina Tomblin-Conley, Class of 1995

Since early childhood, planning for the future has always been important to me. I have, however, learned that God often steps in and guides us down a very different path than we envisioned.

In 1991, I was honored to graduate as valedictorian from Chapmanville High School in Chapmanville, West Virginia.  Pursuing a college education was very important to me, and at that time, I felt remaining in West Virginia was the best choice. However, reality hit me hard after receiving my first tuition bill and I knew I had to explore other options.

I decided to inquire about available scholarship opportunities at Alice Lloyd College, even if it meant leaving West Virginia. I was thankful to be offered an ALC scholarship which covered tuition, room, and board. How could I possibly pass up such an amazing opportunity? I was further amazed when I received an additional scholarship that covered textbook expenses. I felt certain that God was leading me to ALC.

While a student, my academic and work responsibilities were my primary focus. I also enjoyed being involved in the Baptist Student Union (BSU) and the Voices of Appalachia (VOA).  During that time, I was blessed to meet several dedicated and caring faculty and staff, who would become my dear friends and mentors. I also made lasting friendships with fellow students, including my roommate, Kristin Copley Rock, who remains one of my dearest friends today.

I have so many fond memories of my experiences at ALC and the people there who impacted my life. A couple that immediately comes to mind is Dr. Kossuth Mitchell and his wife, Sandy. Dr. Mitchell was a professor in the school’s Business Program and served as a true role model both in and out of the classroom. As Director of BSU, Sandy frequently welcomed students into her home for activities and fellowship. I would be amiss if I did not also mention Mr. Richard Kennedy, who directed the VOA. Mr. Kennedy helped to instill in me many of ALC’s principles and values that I carry with me to this day.

In 1995, I earned a BA in Business Administration—and graduated debt-free! That same year, I married my husband, Jimmy. Life was good and, four years later, we welcomed our son, DJ. At that time, I had no idea of how drastically circumstances were going to change in the years ahead.

The first unanticipated situation came when I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2004. I was told it was unlikely that I would ever be able to have more children. Once again, God had a different plan! Despite all of the surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments I endured, Jimmy and I celebrated the arrival of our daughter, Faith, in 2009.

Sabrina with family

For fourteen years, I worked in marketing and administration for Girling Home Health. Then, in 2012, I made a career change and began teaching. My life was full and I found great joy in my roles as a wife, mother, and educator.   

Again, my world was shaken when I learned, in 2015, that my cancer had returned. I was once more forced to deal with medical issues and learned that another surgery would be necessary. It was by the Grace of God that I beat cancer a second time.

I had no idea that my most challenging health conditions were still ahead. In July 2020, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had surgery in August—right in the midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic. My medical issues continued to escalate when I contracted Covid-19 in October, developing pneumonia, MRSA, and becoming septic. I was hospitalized for 40 days and placed on a ventilator. This was surely the closest to death I had ever come.

I slowly began to recover but was completely debilitated. I could not even turn over in bed. It was necessary to relearn many everyday tasks such as dressing myself and eventually walking on my own.

Throughout 2020, I was unable to work at all, but this fall I have returned to teaching at Chapmanville Regional High School. The obstacles I have faced have made me believe, more strongly than ever, that God has a plan and purpose for my life.

Serving others is a priority for me. I am committed to my work with the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life, and also the Susan G. Komen Foundation.  I was the 2016 spokesperson for the Charleston, West Virginia, USPS Cancer Awareness Program.

As a member of Crawley Creek Freewill Baptist Church, I teach Sunday School, help with the youth group, and sing in the choir. I also assist with the Prayer Club and outreach programs at Chapmanville Regional High School. I am a longtime supporter of the arts and currently volunteer with theatre programs in which my children participate. I am especially passionate about a Thursday video blog I host on Facebook, My Thankful Thursday, which gives me an opportunity to share my testimony and encourage others.

I have experienced more joy and difficulty than I could have ever imagined since my days at Alice Lloyd College. And, as I reflect on my time of walking the Purpose Road daily, I am so grateful for all that I learned about purpose, faith, and serving others.