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York College graduate overcomes obstacles on path to nation’s capital

Sophia head and shoulders

Sophia (Hollis) Ticer ’98 remembers returning home to Dover, Pennsylvania, and wondering if she’d ever have the chance to finish her education. It would have been easy to feel defeat, to choose a different path. However, after dropping out of college and becoming a single parent, Ticer decided she wanted more for herself and her child.

She enrolled as an English major at York College of Pennsylvania. It was the first step in a long journey to pursuing a career that would elevate her as well as her family. Today, she looks back on that decision to return to college with gratitude. Recently appointed to lead the Office of the Attorney General’s Child Support Services Division in Washington, D.C., she’s now helping others access the programs that were helpful in her own life.

“I didn’t want to settle in life,” she says. “I had the will to fight and the desire to exercise my faith to pursue the destiny that God had for me.”

Pursuing her destiny

Ticer always wanted to be an attorney. While she started her undergraduate education at Morgan State University in Political Science, she came to York College in pursuit of her English degree so she would be prepared for a career that required a lot of writing and research. Her Philosophy minor helped analyze literature and not take things at face value.

“York College gave me a solid foundation to think outside the box,” she says. “I needed that to get through the next phases of my education and later my career.”

Following graduation, she received her paralegal certificate from Penn State York campus. Still a single parent, she worked at various law firms in York City, starting as a receptionist and legal secretary. All that time, she knew she wanted more. Ticer applied and was accepted to Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Michigan, where she graduated in 2004.

Ticer would work in general practice for several years before heading to the State’s Attorney Office in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and then the State’s Attorney Office in Charles County, Maryland. It was while working for the Maryland Office of the Attorney General litigating child support matters as Special Counsel that she was approached with a job opening.

“I like stability, and I’m not one to jump from one job to another,” she says. “So, I prayed about it. I felt like I was doing the work like it was the back of my hand. I was good at it, but I had become complacent. It was time for a new challenge.”

In January 2019, she became the Assistant Deputy for the D.C. Office of the Attorney General Child Support Services Division and subsequently Director of the Division in September 2020.  “It’s been a whirlwind,” she says, thinking back on the events that occurred. “I have to think a lot of it has to do with the foundation I received at York College.”

Helping others

Ticer’s division collects and disperses child support payments, with many recipients in the lower income ward of Washington, D.C. She also manages about 180 employees, is responsible for implementing government regulations, creates the division budget, and represents the division on various committees and boards.

“We’re here to support both parents, both the custodial and non-custodial parent, so they can be the parents they need to be for their children,” Ticer says. “I know the impact this office can have on a family because I was once a recipient of child support. I get a lot of satisfaction in being able to help others.”

Not only child support, but several other programs played a role in helping Ticer reach her goals. She notes that she had to live in Section 8 housing for a time and that she received assistance to cover the cost of her paralegal certificate.

“Those things helped me do more for my children,” she says. “Despite the struggles, there were programs there to serve as steppingstones. By the grace of God, I’m where I am today.”