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Grass doesn’t grow on the mountain

If I could do something to give back to the North Carolina Community College system, I would do three things. First, I would change the perception that universities offer a better education than community colleges. Then, I would squash the rumor that your opportunities are limited and your chances of growth are small. Lastly, I would promote the truth by being a living example of the excellent education and impeccable opportunities that community colleges offer by continuing to share my story of how far you can go.

Like many community college students, I chose to attend because it was financially my best option. That being said, I wasn’t eligible for financial aid, and I got through most of school by working, and with assistance from a few scholarships I received along the way.

I didn’t know what to expect from college. Throughout high school, I was involved in everything possible — from volleyball, to singing in church, to competing with my horses, to youth ministry.

Yet my goal as I started my college career at Rockingham Community College was to be invisible.

One of the amazing aspects of a community college education is the personalized one-on-one time you get with your teachers and advisors. We hear this sentiment so often when speaking about community colleges that we begin to ignore how incredible that resource is. It was because of this personalized attention that I didn’t stay invisible for very long.

Teachers and advisors saw things in me that I couldn’t have possibly seen in myself, and pretty soon I was being recruited for student government. I’d never been involved in something like this and was very excited to see what new and exciting adventures it would bring. Little did I know that a few weeks later I would run and receive the position of President, which I held for two consecutive years. Out of student government stemmed more opportunities than I could have imagined.

In my two years with student government, I sat on my school’s Board of Trustees to be a voice for all our students. I was introduced to the N4CSGA board and was able to serve as the local interactions chair for a semester to be a voice for our entire state. I participated in the Student Leadership Development Program and came back the next year to be a leader in the program. I’ve met and worked with some of the most amazing people equally amazing stories.

Mark Kinlaw, President of Rockingham Community College, poses with Natalie Horton.

I’ve watched as people who were shy and who got sick from the idea of speaking in public stand up and speak out in front of hundreds of people because someone needed them to be their voice. The hashtag that many of you have seen floating around — #58Strong — came out of a N4CSGA conference where a motion was made to use this hashtag at all community college events across the state.

It was a way to bring people together with a common cause and a common voice in a day where technology is in such demand. Little did we know that voting on and passing something as simple as the use of a common hashtag would start a movement to band together for the common cause of affordable education with incredible opportunities. The voices across this state are so strong if we only take a moment to listen.

At one of our leadership events, the key note speaker decided to talk about the mountains and the valleys and the grass. It’s okay, I got lost at that point, too.

He went on to talk about the grass in the mountains; did you know that grass in the mountains only has to be cut about twice a year? It doesn’t grow nearly as fast as it does down in the lower areas of the state.

I don’t know about you, but I love the mountains. I wish I could stay up there and ride the highs of life all the time, but as our speaker pointed out, grass doesn’t grow on the mountain. The mountain is a great place to reflect and be proud of all you’ve done, but once the reflecting is over, we must go back to the valley to share what we’ve learned with others and teach them how to climb. While we are teaching them to climb, we must continue to grow ourselves.

In about a month, I will be transferring to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to pursue my bachelor’s degree in systems engineering. This article, in a way, is my final reflection on top of the mountain before going back to the valley to start a new journey at UNCC.

There’s a verse in the bible from the book of Isiah that reads: “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

I believe that in many ways this is exactly what the community college does.

They taught me to climb the mountain, prepared me for the difficult journey, and gave me the confidence to test my wings.

I have no doubt that because of the things I’ve learned and the amazing support of the people I’ve met through the community college system, I will soar to new heights at UNCC.

To my community college in Rockingham county, thank you for believing in me. To the system office and all the other amazing supporters I’ve had from other community colleges, thank you. Thank you for setting your students up for success and for pushing us to be the best students and people we can be.

“Make the most of yourself for that is all there is of you.”

-Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Natalie Horton

Natalie Horton lives in her hometown of Eden, North Carolina. She graduated from Rockingham Community College in May 2017 with college high honors, Phi Theta Kappa, and with an AAS in Electronics Engineering Technology. During her time at RCC, Horton was the president of the Student Government from 2016-2018, sat on the Board of Trustees, was accepted and participated in the 2017-18 Student Leadership Development Program (SLDP), and she held the position of Local Interactions Chair with the N4CSGA for the Spring of 2018.

She has returned to the SLDP program for the 2018-19 year to give back as a co-facilitator to the program. She has been accepted to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Systems Engineering Program and plans on graduating in the Spring of 2021.