Happily ever after for couple who first met at College4Kids 20 years ago
When they first met during a cake decorating class at MCC’s College4Kids in summer 2001, Tyler Shirley and Lauren Walker Shirley never dreamed they would be baking desserts together 20 years later.
It just goes to show that you never know what future dreams may be sparked at Meridian Community College’s summer program for area youth, now in its 40th year.
Back in 2001, Lauren, who was 11 then and a student at Calvary Christian School, had signed up to take Cake Decorating and Cooking for Fun, two popular classes. Tyler, 12 at the time and a student at St. Patrick School, had signed up for Woodworking and another class, which he does not recall the name of, but it ended up being full. As fate would have it, Tyler was put into cake decorating instead.
“I was the only boy in the class, so she was probably thinking, ‘Why is he in here?’” Tyler laughs when he remembers their first encounter.
While the two did not interact much during the class, Lauren remembers him more because of a fun picnic held for the students at the end of College4Kids. Tyler brought his pet iguana to the event.
“He had an iguana on his shoulder,” she recalled. “I remember when I started the first day of school at Calvary that year, I saw him, and I told my sister that is the boy who had the iguana.”
Tyler, however, was smitten from the very beginning.
“I think it was the blue eyes,” he said. “People I work with who meet her, friends I have met along the way, they all comment on her eyes. She has beautiful glassy, blue eyes.”
After summer, Tyler transferred to Calvary Christian School, where both students were in the sixth grade. The two went to school together throughout junior high and high school, graduating from Calvary Christian in 2008.
“We were always just really good friends,” Lauren said.
After graduation, she enrolled at MCC, earning her associate degree in university transfer in 2010. She then enrolled at the Meridian campus of Mississippi State University and received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education two years later. She taught at West Hills Elementary School during the 2012-2013 school year, then moved to St. Patrick School the following year, where she taught third grade for a year. For the past seven years she has taught kindergarten at St. Patrick and was named a Golden Apple Award recipient in 2019.
Meanwhile, after graduation, Tyler began working nights at the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department. During the daytime, he helped to take care of his grandmother, who was ill at the time, while also taking classes at MCC. Shortly after his grandmother passed away in 2009, he moved to Baton Rouge, La., to work as Outreach Director and Missions Coordinator for the Salvation Army.
“My grandparents were very active in the Salvation Army and had volunteered with the organization their whole lives,” he said. “They went to church with the Salvation Army, so I had grown up around it, and I had a lot of friends there. Even when I was in high school, I worked summer camp at the Salvation Army’s Camp Hidden Lake in Lexington, Mississippi.”
Tyler worked at the Baton Rouge post for about six months before moving to Atlanta to work for the Salvation Army until 2012. He returned to Meridian for a short stay before returning to the Salvation Army in Baton Rouge in early 2013.
In spring 2014, he decided to come home to Meridian. Not sure what he wanted to do for a career, he began working for a private security company.
Then in 2018, he opened his own security business, Priority One Security Services, which offers services across Mississippi. He also has started his own land management company, Magnolia Land and Property Management, LLC.
Despite going their separate ways after high school, Lauren and Tyler kept in touch through social media. Even though they were involved in other relationships over the years, they sometimes would meet for lunch when he was in town to catch up.
After he moved back to Meridian seven years ago, those meetings and encounters became more frequent. Gradually over the years, they went from being good friends to falling in love.
They officially wed in a ceremony last October 10 at Faith Baptist Church during the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had set that date, and I was determined we were getting married on that day,” she said, “and we were pretty much able to have our wedding the way we had planned it before the pandemic hit.”
While the couple does not do much cake decorating these days, they both love to bake and cook.
And, Lauren admits, “Tyler is probably the better baker.”
Sponsored by the Continuing Education Department at Meridian Community College, College4Kids offers a wide variety of classes for children. Last year’s event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 460 children attended this year’s College4Kids.
CLICK HERE to learn more about College4Kids.