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Jermillya Farris: determination and BlueCross support lead to a college degree

Jermillya Farris has always been driven to better herself while working on a mission she believed in. Before joining BlueCross 12 years ago, she struggled to find a job that aligned with her core values and nurtured her talents. 

“I remember sharing frustrations with my family during Sunday dinners,” she recalls. “At the time, my job was unfulfilling, and I needed more — a place where I could grow.” 

Jermillya knew people who worked at BlueCross and loved it, so after receiving a tip from a friend of her mother’s, she jumped at the chance to apply. She was hired as a customer service representative in the Provider Interplan & Operations department, helping develop strong relationships with providers to ensure correct distribution of benefits.

At first, Jermillya was nervous to begin a job in an unknown industry, but upon starting her position she knew she’d made the right decision.  In her 12 years at BlueCross, her career has flourished and her skillset has deepened.

Today, she works in marketing and account management where she has contact with diverse customer accounts and supports many different aspects of BlueCross business relationships.

“As a client management associate, I serve as a liaison with our group customers and internal teams to resolve service issues and establish and maintain rapport,” she says. “I work directly with our account executives, brokers and group administrators.”

Degree determination

Never one to settle, Jermillya sought out a means to finish her bachelor’s degree. She’d taken college classes on and off but always found herself sidetracked by a struggle we can all relate to.

“My biggest challenge has never been school, it’s life,” Jermillya says. “Life just has a way of getting in the way, and I have to take my focus away from school and handle whatever life situation has presented itself.”

BlueCross recognizes these challenges and provides resources for employees interested in pursuing higher education.

Employees are eligible for tuition reimbursement at six months of full-time employment. The company reimburses up to $10,000 per employee per calendar year.  Employees must earn an average grade of A, B or C to be reimbursed. And full-time employees who earn A’s or B’s are eligible to receive 100% reimbursement, up to that annual maximum. All costs associated with obtaining a degree (books, tuition, fees) are covered by BlueCross.

Thanks to the financial support from BlueCross, there are fewer obstacles to get a college degree.

“There wasn’t anything to think about when I heard tuition assistance was available,” she says. “I wanted to go back to school, and it was the most viable option. I thought, ‘Why wouldn’t I take advantage of such a valuable resource?’”

Gaining leadership skills

Jermillya is currently enrolled at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and working toward a degree in Applied Leadership, developing skills that support her desire to be an inclusive leader.

For others pursuing goals, whether career aspirations or not, Jermillya recommends creating a plan and determining if continued education is the key. Even with financial support, earning a degree is a substantial time commitment, so ask the tough questions before embarking too far down that path.

“For example, are you willing to make the sacrifice and put forth the effort that it takes?” Jermillya asks. “And when it gets hard, are you going to be persistent? I’ve stopped and started so many times, and I’m still at it. This may not be the way I planned things, but it’s my journey, I’m supported by my company and colleagues, and I haven’t given up on myself.” 

Another example of BlueCross support is Jermillya’s ability to work from home. That’s allowed her to be less stressed and maintain a stable work-life-school balance.

While stability is crucial for peace of mind, Jermillya is excited to see what her future holds at BlueCross.

“I aspire to advance beyond my current role, but I don’t have to be a director, VP or CEO to make change or spark something in someone,” she says. 

“I can be my authentic self — Jermillya, the CMA, an ally, a daughter, a sister, cousin, godmother, friend, graduate — and still make waves.”

*Additional reporting by Desiree Colon.

About Kendra Satterwhite, Corporate Communications Intern

A photo of the authorKendra is a senior and marketing major at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She joined the BlueCross corporate communications team as an intern during the winter of 2023.

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