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Each graduate success comes with a unique journey

With over 645 certificates, diplomas, and degrees awarded at Haywood Community College’s graduation ceremonies, each one comes with a unique journey.

When Ricky Sanford, Haywood Community College 2018 Business Administration graduate, was told by his doctor that he had three blockages and needed open heart surgery, he knew he had a long road of recovery. He also knew after seven bypasses that life can be over quickly.

That’s when Sanford enrolled for the second time at HCC to finish what he started more than 20 years ago.

“Once you make up your mind, things happen,” Sanford says. “You change your mindset. You see more possibilities.”

Prior to his health problems, Sanford worked as an administrative assistant for a large general contractor. “I knew I could not advance without a degree.”

But taking the first step as a middle-aged student was not easy. “I started out slow. I took online classes first. I quickly found how rewarding it was to get good grades and that there was so much to learn.”

Another key to the transition was during his hours as a work-study student, Sanford was delivering heavy packages on campus. A staff member noticed the boxes that needed to be unloaded and assisted Sanford with the delivery. “The person that helped me with those boxes made the comment that we are all on the same team. At HCC, that’s not just something people say. It’s the way people feel whether you are a student, teacher, or staff member.”

Sanford says he chose the Business Administration degree because it is such a versatile program with many options for a career.

“Coming back to school was well worth it,” Sanford says. “I got marketable skills and see many niches out there that people aren’t filling. Now I feel like I can pursue my passion.”

Whatever that passion may be will have to wait until Sanford returns from several days at the lake, trying out his new kayak.

On the other end of the student spectrum at HCC, Pisgah High School student Elly Hamlin walked across the College’s graduation stage with an associate in arts college transfer degree in her hand. She will graduate from high school in June. Hamlin took advantage of the Career and College Promise Program where she completed college classes free of charge.

In addition to saving money, Hamlin became acclimated to the college environment while still in high school, which in turn will save her time.

Elly Hamlin started these courses the summer before her junior year. She already has a certificate in criminal justice. Heading to UNC-Charlotte, Hamlin believes she will be able to finish a bachelor’s degree at least a year early.

“Not only have I saved so much money, I feel more prepared to go to a university after taking classes at HCC,” Hamlin explains. “These classes were a harder work load than high school but when you learn to stay on top of your work and know your due dates, you appreciate the freedom.”

Hamlin plans to pursue a doctorate in anesthesiology.

With a variety of associate, diploma, and certificate programs to choose from, students can take the first step in realizing that education changes everything.

Editor’s note: This perspective first appeared on the Haywood Community College website. It has been posted with the author’s permission.

Diana Conard

Diana Conard is a native of Canton, NC and has a bachelor’s degree in English from Western Carolina University. She has worked at Haywood Community College for more than 15 years in the Marketing and Communications Department where she enjoys getting the word out to the community about the great work and services available at the college and the stories of the students whose lives are changed by the education they receive.