Shawn Nowlin firstname.lastname@example.org
Craig County native and recent Radford University graduate Tonya Gardner grew up surrounded by several strong women.
Her mother, Angie Gardner, and grandmother, Carolyn Day, remain two of her biggest inspirations to this day.
At an early age, she showed an interest in arts and was regularly encouraged to dream beyond her wildest imagination. When she arrived at Craig County High School in the Fall of 2008, she already had an idea of what she wanted to do with her life.
“I graduated from high school in 2012 and was lucky enough to have a really good art teacher that gave me a lot of inspiration,” she said. “I was always reading and I’ve always been interested in philosophy.”
As a result of her upbringing, there was never any doubt on whether Gardner would further her education after high school. She ultimately chose Radford University for a variety of reasons. “I really wanted to be a part of their art program,” she said. “I also wanted to go to a community that was different and diverse. I didn’t really have any diversity from the community that I grew up in.”
Several months ago, Tonya found out that she was given an opportunity to travel overseas to Bangladesh for three months to teach and develop an art curriculum as well as learn the culture of the country. She will be staying with a host family from February until May and they will be taking care of all her immediate needs. Whenever someone travels abroad for an extended period of time, their overall safety is a concern. “I knew that my mom would be a little reserved but she would also be very happy for me,” Gardner said. “Bangladesh has had a female president and the place that I’m going to be teaching at was founded by a woman.”
Tonya Gardner likes to think of herself as a role model for young girls back in Craig County. “I really want to get my own experience that I can speak of when I come back. Especially on how women are treated in Muslim countries,” she said. “People in my culture have this ideology of what women are treated like and I want to be a platform to talk about that. I’m very thankful because without the Painting Department at Radford University, I never would have gotten this great opportunity.”