CLASS OF 2014
Spotlight on our Graduates
Sybill Artis – May 2014 Graduate
Motorcycle Mama to Motivational Speaker
“In my wild days, I was a motorcycle mama,” says Sybill Artis, an elegant grandmother who aims to convert her experiences as a high school dropout and drug user into material for motivational speaking. “I want to help other young women avoid the mistakes I made.”
She knows change is possible. Now employed as a secretary to New Jersey Superior Court Judge George Sabbath, Sybill will graduate from PCCC this month with an associate’s degree in Liberal Arts/Criminal Justice. “It took almost 40 years, but I did it,” she said. “I even made the Dean’s List three times.”
Growing up as one of 15 children in a North Carolina family, Sybill was among the first in her community to attend a racially integrated elementary school where she achieved academic honors. “My Daddy was so proud, but over the years I disappointed him” said Sybill, fighting back tears.
“He died before he could see my college graduation.”
The family moved to Paterson where Sybill attended John F. Kennedy High School, but dropped out when she became pregnant to raise her daughter. “I tried returning to school, but it was too hard,” she said. “There weren’t many options for pregnant girls back then.”
Though she was a single mother, Sybill confessed to smoking pot heavily and joining a motorcycle club. Yet, she somehow managed to hold on to her job, a testament to the abilities that had once made her father so proud. As a promise to him, she turned her life around.
Sybill attended business school, completed her high school diploma through PCCC, and in 1978, entered a degree program at the College, attending part-time while she worked at a law firm.
She even helped her employer open a new office in Virginia, where she worked for seven years before returning to Paterson.
Determined her daughters would not be caught in an “urban trap,” she became a very involved mother. Today, her older daughter attends culinary school and her granddaughter, whom she adopted as her daughter, is a political science and communication major at Rutgers University.
The young women she sees at a family shelter where she works are not so fortunate. “Some are not even 30 and already have three or four kids by different fathers, addiction issues, and no way to support themselves or the children,” she said.
“I want to help them and show them they can change their lives,” said Sybill who aims to do this through motivational speaking.
It’s her way of giving back for what she has received, especially from her professors at PCCC. “My professors were excellent, a miracle, and I am so grateful to everybody here at PCCC.”
When she receives her diploma on May 22, surrounded by friends and family, Sybill will finally be able to say the words so long overdue, “This one’s for you, Daddy.”