Picture it: The florescent lights of David’s Bridal. The weight of wedding gowns and prom dresses on your shoulders. Spending long days, long hours, countless weekends on tired feet hauling them around.

That was 2024 Ivy Tech Fort Wayne graduate Crissy Horne’s life before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We got shut down, and I was temporarily laid off,” Hospitality Administration grad says. “I was sitting at home for months on end, and I knew I didn’t want to be in this position again. I wanted to have a meaningful career.”

Crissy shared her story while sitting in her brand-new office in Ivy Tech Fort Wayne’s Student Life Center. She was recently hired on as the Student Life Coordinator, supporting students and on-campus organizations. This full circle moment is 15 years in the making.

“I never thought that I would be back in school again just because of my previous experiences in college. I didn't do very well. I really wanted to change the narrative this time around, so I'm just excited that it's really happening.”

Jumping in as first-gen

Crissy remembers getting the letter. The one that told her she was being academically dismissed from college.  

“I was a smart kid in high school. There was so much expectation that I was going to make it. I was going to be successful. It took me years to admit what happened.”

As a first-generation college student, her first attempt right out of high school was met with unexpected pressures.

“College is a different workload, and it’s all on you to motivate yourself. Instructors might be supportive, but they’re probably not going to reach out to see why you’re not coming to class. There’s no hand holding.”

She believes that oftentimes people assume you know what to expect when you make the choice to continue your education. Expectations aren’t communicated clearly. Crissy dived headfirst into school opting for parties rather than homework. She skipped out on class.

She felt alone.

After being dismissed, she tried a community college in Chicago but was met with similar challenges. She gave up.

“I thought it wasn’t for me. I spent time working in banking and ended up in retail management. I decided that was the life for me. Then COVID hit, and I knew I had to figure this thing out.”

This time Crissy decided to chase her passion for cooking.

“Me being 32, I was nervous thinking, am I too old for school? But we can’t do that to ourselves. It’s never too late to change your life around.”

Asking for help

So many students feel like they’re alone, and they have to figure it out on their own. I personally believe you need a support system, even if it’s one person. Like every person that I've encountered at Ivy Tech, staff and faculty have been supportive and wanting to see me succeed on my journey.

– Crissy Horne | 2024 Hospitality Administration Grad

Coming to Ivy Tech, Crissy had two goals: open her own food truck and make connections.

During New Titan Orientation, Crissy saw several faces like Carrie Black (who was working in TRIO Student Services at the time) and Dr. JoAnne Alvarez. She made it her mission to seek out them out on her first day of school.

“So many students feel like they’re alone, and they have to figure it out on their own. I personally believe you need a support system, even if it’s one person. Like every person that I've encountered at Ivy Tech, staff and faculty have been supportive and wanting to see me succeed on my journey.”

She sought support through various student organizations like TRIO Leadership Council, GOAL y Amigos, Black Student Union, Perception is Perfection, and Student Government Association.

Within these organizations, she’s held various leadership positions—which ultimately led her to realize the food truck life wasn’t for her.

“I switched to hospitality administration because it would give me more classes in event planning and would help me transfer to get my bachelor’s in communications.”

It’s important to note that getting to this point wouldn’t have been possible without her fiancé, Marie.

Crissy met Marie online and, after a couple months of dating, she made the move from Chicago to Fort Wayne. Marie’s support has meant the world.

“She has been my biggest cheerleader. There have been days where I wanted to give up, and she would not let me. She’s told me she’d support me no matter what and wanted to see me succeed.”

It’s this kind of support that she didn’t reach for her first time in college. Crissy has kept getting back up and the connections she’s made have led her to where she is today.

A turning point

A large part of what has shaped Crissy’s journey is her on-campus jobs.

She’s held positions in Tutoring Services, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Belonging, and Disability Support Services, making her realize that she loves working in higher ed. She wants to provide the support she needed during her first two attempts at college to current students.

“I was trying to figure out how to work in higher ed and use my hospitality background. I kept talking about how I love event planning and seeing things come together from start to finish. Then my position became available.”

DSS Director Meg Rondot encouraged Crissy to apply for the Student Life position. She was hesitant asking mentors like Cari Knuth, Carrie Black, and Dr. Alvarez for their advice. They met her with overwhelming support.

“Getting the call was a breath of fresh air because I was really nervous about it. It made me feel like I made the right decision.”

Her role is to support student organizations on campus, coordinate student life activities at the Warsaw site, and assists with events at the Fort Wayne campus. She gives advice to those wanting to start their own organizations and helps plan events. Crissy’s getting to take her negative experiences and turn them into advice for current students—a first gen student encouraging the success of the next generation.

Show yourself some grace. Celebrate the wins as they come. A great piece of advice I’ve got was don’t focus so much on what you want to do or where you need to be. Just enjoy the moment you’re in.

– Crissy Horne | 2024 Hospitality Administration Grad

Lessons learned

“Show yourself some grace. Celebrate the wins as they come. A great piece of advice I’ve got was don’t focus so much on what you want to do or where you need to be. Just enjoy the moment you’re in.”

Before Crissy could successfully finish her degree, there were hurdles she had to jump over. It came with sleepless nights and some tears. She shares several bits of wisdom for those who might be struggling with the next steps.

1. Celebrate the wins, big or small.

“That first semester, I finished with a 2.6 GPA. That was an accomplishment because I’d never finished a semester successfully before. That was a win for me. That was something to be proud of.”

2. Have patience while finding your stride.

“The first semester was tough, but I had a good network, and my grades were steadily improving. It takes a minute, but you’ve just got to keep going.”

3. Make the tough decisions.

“Learning how to balance your schedule is important. I got enrolled in 15 credit hours my first semester, but it was a lot. I had to drop some classes, but that’s part of the journey. You have to figure out how this works around your life.”

4. Learn how to own your mistakes.

“English was a tough subject for me. I had to take it three times. Every time I came back. My advisor helped me find different instructors and gave me suggestions. There are always options, and you’re never in it by yourself.”

5. Don’t strive for perfection.

“College is stressful. Classes are difficult. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy because you got a C. Especially if you’re doing everything you can to pass.”

There was a point where all she felt like she was doing was surviving. There were stressful moments. But she reminded herself to keep going. Her support system pushed her to recognize tough days didn’t mean her life was over.

A better every day after


That’s how Crissy describes her experience surrounding graduation day. She’s got her dream job, she’s getting married in January 2025, and she can finally say she’s graduated.

“Everyone’s measure of success is different. So, for me, I feel like I'm successful. I'm happy. I'm doing all the things that I wanted to do. And that's what success looks like for me. Figure out what success looks like and then just do what you need to do to get there. But make sure you find your supports along the way because you will need it.”             

This fall, Crissy will take time off school to focus on her job and enjoy the wedding planning process. She and Marie are also in the process of renovating their home.

“Some days I'm like, ‘wow, I'm sitting in my backyard and enjoying the sunshine, you know, and looking at the house that we're building together, the home that we're creating.’ There are just so many wonderful things happening.”


About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.