ROCKFORD, Ill (WIFR) -- Many of us born and raised in Rockford choose to move away from home to go to school, begin a career or to just experience life elsewhere. But sometimes our journeys bring us back to where our stories began. For comeback kid Tiana McCall, returning to the 815 helped her understand her purpose in life.
“All of my friends who didn’t come back home I always tease them like 'well I'm here helping those people that you left behind'. Just because I returned home doesn't mean that I failed in any way. You can be successful in the place you were born at, in the place you were raised at,” said Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer for Winnebago County, Tiana McCall.
Tiana McCall calls the far west side of Rockford home, the fifth out of six children in a close knit family.
“My mother and father they were very big on education. My mother was always very active in my educational career so I had a lot of resources from my parents and family.”
She graduated from Auburn High School in the middle of a desegregation lawsuit filed against the school district.
“I was one of maybe two African American students in this honors class. Looking back I can see some of the effects but going through it I didn’t really feel it directly.”
After high school Tiana chose to attend Clark Atlanta University, a historically black college in Georgia.
“I always knew that college was the next step. However, I am the first generation college student. I was the first of my siblings to attend college.”
Tiana spent most of her college years volunteering while getting a degree in psychology. A year after graduation she returned home.
“When I came back, in my mind it was going to be for a specific amount of time. I was like maybe I'll give it a year or two and then I'll return back to Atlanta. But when I was here, I got back involved into the community and I started to notice I was needed here.”
McCall joined several organizations that focus on mentoring young girls in the community. She calls those girls the “Tiana’s” of the present.
“For me, it is important for me to be able to create those paths for those after me.”
And that's exactly what she's doing. In 2018 she became the first African American to be sworn in as Winnebago County Clerk. And she's working to make sure she's not the last by showing others that these types of positions are obtainable.
“You can get in there, you can be from here, from the far west side, you can have your hair locked and blonde and wear t-shirts that say ‘Rockford’ on it and still be a leader and still be successful and still give back to your community.”
“Go out and experience the world, and if you find your way back, good. Use all of the skills that you gained in the world to make your city what you want it to be.”