Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute’s graduation ceremony was held on Friday, May 11 at the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center. Graduates varied in their ages, backgrounds and programs of study and each had a unique story that helped them stand out from their peers. One such unique story was that of Christie and Robert Howell, a mother and son from the Boone area who graduated together from the college’s Medical Sonography program.
In 2013, Christie Howell began researching program options for her son Robert, a 2010 Watauga High School graduate. Robert had completed CCC&TI’s Paramedic program and was working in the healthcare field but wanted to continue his education and expand his career options. When she found CCC&TI’s sonography program, she called upon her background in human resources and looked at the salary potential and employment prospects. She liked what the program had to offer. She suggested the program to Robert and he began his prerequisites in 2014.
What Robert did not know at the time, was that his mom’s research had piqued her interest in the program as well.
“I was actually early retired and frankly, I was bored. After looking into the sonography field, I too became interested but didn’t share my enthusiasm because I wanted Robert to make up his mind on his own,” said Christie. “When we went into the meeting with his counselor to transition from Paramedic to Sonography, I said ‘sign me up, too!’ Robert thought I was kidding but soon learned I was not.”
Both Robert and Christie agree that going through the program together had its advantages and disadvantages.
“It was nice having my mother go through the course with me. It kept me grounded and focused. It also made studying a lot easier to do, let me tell you,” said Robert. “At first, my fellow students were very confused but then excited that we were taking this journey together. My mother wasn’t just my mother in the class, she was the mother figure for the whole class.”
Christie said that as a mom, she loved being there for her son. “I always knew what he had to study, knew what his homework was on and knew he would get to class on time,” she said.” The downside was realizing that during school hours he was no longer my son, we were both students in a class and the teacher was the boss! Sometimes that was hard, but overall, I learned to deal with it. Robert and I are very close. To those who know us, it is not surprising that we did this special journey together.”
Now that both have graduated, they have big plans ahead. Christie passed both of her registry exams and had a job waiting on her at Catawba Valley Medical Center, which she started the Monday following graduation. Robert is looking at several employment offers and hopes to start local and gain some experience before moving to the West Coast.
Both Christie and Robert say that they highly recommend CCC&TI and the Sonography program to anyone considering higher education or work in the medical field.
“I would for sure recommend this program to those who are serious and ready to train for an extremely rewarding career. It is not easy, but it is so worth it,” said Christie. “CCC&TI is known for putting out the best of the best! I have heard this from many of my clinical instructors. Our instructors make sure we are ready or we don’t graduate.”
Robert agreed. “I have been a CCC&TI student for about 7 years now and the institution is known to produce the best of the best. I only hope I can live up to the standard as I go off into the world.”
And Christie says she has some words of encouragement for nontraditional students who might be struggling with the decision to come back to school. “I am a perfect example of going after what you want at any age! It is better to be afraid and try anyway than to look back and regret not taking the chance,” said Christie. “CCC&TI is a great school. I will pass it every day on my way to work and I will smile, knowing my son and I changed our lives there, together.”
Editor’s note: This perspective originally appeared in the June 2018 edition of The Caldwell Chronicle. It has been posted with the author’s permission.