Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of ECU News Services. The author of this post is Crystal Baity.
Tanisha Grimes, middle, a housekeeping supervisor at ECU, stands with two of her six children on ECU’s campus. Ashawndrea, left, is a rising senior in the clinical laboratory science program and Ashari attends Innovation Early College High School at ECU. (ECU photos by Rhett Butler)
East Carolina University's Tanisha Grimes keeps pushing every day, striving to be a role model for her six children. Her dedication to family, her job and taking college courses is a testament to her grandmother.
"I want to honor her because I would not be the woman I am today without her,"
Grimes started at ECU four years ago as the housekeeper for Mendenhall, cleaning three floors of offices, bathrooms and Hendrix Theatre, the bowling alley and meeting rooms, as well as Joyner Library's fourth floor. She also filled in at Erwin, Joyner East and the Old Cafeteria Building, and worked football and basketball games on the athletic campus.
Now, as a supervisor, she maintains an inventory of essential housekeeping supplies and personal protective equipment, unlocks doors, turns on lights, and makes sure buildings are safe, clean and sanitized while overseeing housekeepers' work hours. She sometimes is on call outside her normal 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. workday.
"ECU has a lot to offer as a housekeeper, as a staff member,"
Grimes said. "When I came here, I saw a lot of opportunities. I knew doors could open for my children too."
Growing up in Plymouth, Grimes never thought about working at a university. "It was just so amazing to me because I had never experienced anything like this,"
she said. "The experience here has been great. That's why I encouraged my oldest daughter to come here."
Her oldest, Ashawndrea Grimes, is 19 and a rising senior majoring in clinical laboratory science in the College of Allied Health Sciences. She works at Thermo Fisher Scientific and graduated from Pitt County Early College High School where she earned an associate degree. Also on campus is Tanisha's 15-year-old daughter Ashari, who attends Innovation Early College High School. Her other children are De'Ziyah Clark, Dushon Grimes, Keymauni Grimes and Kwuanila Grimes. Three attend Pitt County Early College High School, and the youngest, who is 8, is in second grade at Northwest Elementary.
Tanisha and Kwuanta Grimes created a blended family when they married more than 10 years ago. "We don't use stepdad, stepmom. We say mom and dad. They are our kids,"
she said. With five girls and one boy, each has their own unique personality, and several are interested in science and medical fields while another wants to be an attorney.
Education is important to her and her husband, said Grimes, who graduated high school after having her first daughter. "I always say I graduated with my child."
Grimes, her brother and several cousins were raised by her grandmother, Emma Norman, who died in 2021.
"My grandma took care of the whole family, so putting my baby on her and her sister when they were older - I had to work. I had to take care of my child,"
Grimes said. "I had to put college on the back burner for a long time."
Before joining ECU, Grimes worked for eight years on the night shift as a line leader at Perdue Farms in Lewiston. "At Perdue, it's fast paced. Everything is fast paced, and you've got to be moving."
Her husband worked days, creating a gap if he had to stay late at his job. Working at ECU has helped ensure a parent is home after school. The transition from nights to days and the change of pace were big adjustments, Grimes said, but she kept on top of her children's schoolwork and activities. Then, Kwuanta was diagnosed with cancer, which is now in remission.
"When I finally came to ECU, it was like, 'Now I can breathe. Now I can go to school. I have the leeway.' I could see clear air, so I decided to go back,"
said Grimes, who is studying accounting and finance at Pitt Community College. She plans to pursue a bachelor's degree at ECU after earning her associate degree. When she finishes, her husband would like to get his commercial driver's license.
"I went back because I feel I can show my kids that it doesn't matter what age you are, you can always go back to school. I've been working hard, getting A's and B's, and haven't stopped because I don't want them to feel like it's OK to quit something or to give up that easy,"
Grimes said. "It's showing them 'You can do it.' You just got to apply yourself."
She and her husband also help care for their 1-year-old nephew, picking him up every day at day care. Everyone helps with cooking and laundry.
Grimes' hope for her children is to go further than her and her husband, to go on an adventure and see the world, she said. "I want them to go over and beyond. I want them to be successful. I want them to be better than me, and to make smart decisions,"
she said. "I don't want them to settle. Don't say you can't do it because I know you can do it."