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Forest Service Engineer, Former Student Intern, Triumphs Over Early Life Hardships

“It’s a pleasure to get up in the morning and go to work,” said Toniette “Toni” Addison, a civil engineer for the National Forests in Florida. “I spend the majority of my time designing recreation sites on some of the most beautiful and remote areas of our forests.”

Toni Addison, a civil engineer for the National Forests in Florida, is pictured here at Leon Sink Geological Area on the Apalachicola National Forest. The renovation of Leon Sinks was one of several projects completed in 2011 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Addison inspected the work of local contractors and businesses to ensure that contract specifications were adhered to and the project was completed in a timely manner. Photo Credit: Susan Blake, Public Affairs Specialist, National Forests in Florida

Toni Addison, a civil engineer for the National Forests in Florida, is pictured here at Leon Sink Geological Area on the Apalachicola National Forest. The renovation of Leon Sinks was one of several projects completed in 2011 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Addison inspected the work of local contractors and businesses to ensure that contract specifications were adhered to and the project was completed in a timely manner. Photo Credit: Susan Blake, Public Affairs Specialist, National Forests in Florida

But things were not always so rosy for Addison. One of six children, she recalls a difficult life growing up as a young African-American girl in the projects of Fort Myers, Fla. Her single-parent mother frequently left Toni and her siblings at home alone to fend for themselves – at times for as long as two weeks.

She attributes her survival to her twin sister, Antoinette. At an early age, the twins as the oldest of the siblings, had a great deal of responsibility caring for three sisters and one brother. “We depended on each other when our situation got really tough,” said Addison. “We were washing clothes, fixing bottles and changing diapers.”

Reflecting on her past, Addison insists “It’s all about what you make it. You, as an individual, have to surround yourself with positive influences. That’s what I would tell anybody today who’s living in the projects.”

After graduating from high school, Addison received a full scholarship to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. While there she applied for an internship with the USDA Forest Service under the Student Career Employment Program (SCEP).

SCEP is a way for college students to get a job with the government through on-the-job training internships.

Now in her fifth year with the Forest Service, she has had assignments as far away as Washington state. Today, she lives with her twin sister Antoinette in Tallahassee, Fla.

According to Addison, happiness is much more important than money. “As long as I continue to be happy I don’t want to go anywhere else. I like the Forest Service a whole lot. I think it’s because we’re such a close-knit family, but at the same time, our personalities and people are so diverse.”

23 Responses to “Forest Service Engineer, Former Student Intern, Triumphs Over Early Life Hardships”

  1. Laraine says:

    Ms. Toni Anderson
    You are the American dream come true, for real. You and your twin sister/siblings. I am so glade that the all of you stayed together. Congradulations on your hard work. It has made you a role model for us as well.

  2. Sherise Foster says:

    It’s great to hear someone story in some way you can relate too. I just want to say congradulations for not giving up and being an strong individual.Goodluck on everything ahead of you and may you be blessed with more to come.

  3. Kenneth Rush says:

    Ms. Addison,

    Out of the good news comes GREAT news!

    Thanks for sharing your your happiness with us and also your winning smile!

  4. Trish says:

    Wow, what an inspiring story. You should definitely be proud of how far you’ve come. Your story helps me to be grateful for what I have too.

  5. portia says:

    thanks for sharing hope

  6. Juan Soto says:

    Toni:

    The Government is blessed with people like you, and you are an inspiration for our Nation!

  7. Ben says:

    Happy and encouraged to see fellow alumnus being trailblazers at USDA! God Bless, Toni!

    -Ben
    06′ College of Arts & Sciences, FAMU
    USDA Headquarters, Washington, DC.

  8. Tony Frame says:

    Thanks for sharing your story; it’s so important to hear success stories. We probably don’t realize how much you had to overcome. What a great idea for USDA to combine work and education. Have a great day -T

  9. Del Cannon says:

    I send congratulations out to you Toni, on your amazing accomplishments; in spite of all of your adversities, growing up. You are a true testament of what perseverance, a giving spirit and an un wavering commitment to succeed, can achieve. I wish you continued success in all of your future endeavors.

  10. Erica Robinsonq says:

    I can truly relate to this woman’s story. It is truly a blessing to overcome your situation. Continue to do great things for your life is too destined for greatness and true abundance.

    Blessings and Glory

  11. Sherry DD says:

    What a great story and inspiration for those who are currently in the same situation. Also, having determination and perseverance shows what you can ahieve in life. However, being a new government employee makes me very proud to be part of USDA. Goodluck and continue your pursuit of happiness.

  12. Willim D. Thomas Jr CE says:

    Bill Thomas says 03/13/2012 AM
    Ms Toni Addison,I must say that I am over joyed and very
    happy for you.You are a wonderful role model and an
    excellent example of what one can do when one tries . I see
    only the best of things for you ahead.May Gods Blessings
    forever rain upon you and yours.

  13. Kenneth Rush says:

    Ms. Addison,

    from good news comes GREAT news.

    Thank you for sharing your story as well as your winning smile with us!

  14. G.Rivera says:

    Toni, your story brings a lot of hopes to me and USDA; means our programs are working..! and they are helping to provide a better future to our families. Felicitaciones..!

  15. Shandra Terry says:

    As a former Forest Service SCEP student, your story is a very inspiring one! The USDA family (especially the Forest Service) is very fortunate to have you on board! There isn’t any doubt you will continue to inspire other youth who are looking to expand their horizons and looking to live a fulfilling, happy life! Godspeed to you always!

  16. A. Bradley says:

    Toni, I am very proud of you. I wish you much success in your career. P.S. You look like you could be my sister! Smile.

  17. Pam P. says:

    Toni, I am so proud of you and your achievements. It is truly a blessing to be blessed. Stay encourage and strong so everyone can see your light.

  18. Ed Nilson says:

    Hi Toni, your story is an inspiration to all of us in USDA. Your joy in working for the Forest Service designing recreation sites is evident in your award winning smile. May you enjoy the Forest Service as much as I did in Montana and Idaho and God’s blessings always!

  19. Toni Addison says:

    Thanks for all the wonderful comments from everyone!! Its great to be apart of such a wonderful family!!

  20. Angela Prioleau says:

    Toni,

    I am so proud of you. Your story is an inspiration to all. I look forward to our continued work together.

    Angela Prioleau
    USDA, Rural Development
    1992, CESTA, Florida A&M

  21. B. Kennedy says:

    Good Luck to you Toni, its so great to hear you pulled yourself up and got a good education and a job you love.
    Best Wishes!!

  22. Art says:

    You are an inspiration to all black women in the world. Thank you for your presence here on Earth!!!

  23. L.Brooks says:

    Hi Toni,

    I shared your story with my son who is aspiring to be an electrical engineer. Best wishes and continued success to you. I will continue to look for great things from you!

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