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Perspective | Never stop learning: Lifelong learner returns to college for new career

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In a testament to the timeless pursuit of knowledge, Deborah Woody made the decision to return to college after being laid off from her 37-year career in telecommunications.

Having grown up on a farm in Roxboro, Woody knew when she graduated high school that she wanted to go to college rather than work on a farm or in a mill like many other people she knew. She was able to carpool with someone to attend Rutledge College in Durham, but that opportunity was cut short after nine months when the person she was carpooling with stopped attending. At that time, she made the decision to enroll in Piedmont Technical College, which is now known as Piedmont Community College (PCC) in her hometown of Roxboro. 

In 1981, she graduated with a degree in Executive Secretarial Science. Her passion for learning led her back to PCC a few years later where she took courses to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), medication aide, and medication technician. Since she was employed full-time in telecommunications, she would work as a CNA on the weekends. She later came back to PCC to earn a business administration degree in 2014. 

In March 2023, Woody — now 62 — made the decision to return to PCC again after being laid off from her telecommunications position. This time, her goal was to shift careers and pursue medical coding and billing. Woody said she chose this credential because of her prior knowledge of medical terms, processes, and procedures.

“I chose PCC because it was home, and there’s no place like home,” Woody said when asked why she chose to return to PCC. “Everything I’ve ever learned from a college was from my home college.”

In the past, Woody’s most significant barrier to education had been transportation. She’s thankful that this has not been a barrier this time — medical coding and billing is a fully online course. Since Woody had several decades of experience with technology, this was no issue for her. 

“Deborah has proven to be a standout learner while completing the medical coding and billing course,” Lori Watlington, PCC’s Health and Wellness Director said. “Her attention to detail, commitment to accuracy, and a strong work ethic have set the standard for excellence in our course. Deborah not only grasps the complexities of coding intricacies, but also represents the empathy required to navigate the health care field. Her journey reflects the perfect blend of technical proficiency and a compassionate approach, making her a promising asset to the future of health care administration.”

Despite being a first-generation college student, Woody says that even though she didn’t have someone to help her along the way, she was determined to go to college, to do something better and to help her mother. When she got older, her daughters were the ones who encouraged her to pursue even more education.  

“You’re never too old to learn,” Woody said. “There’s always something out there that you can learn and grow with. From my youth, through college, through adulthood and education, all of it makes you who you are.”

“Deborah Woody has the ‘can do’ attitude that is infectious,” Edna Brown, PCC’s Caswell County Campus Student Development Director said. “She can move a team in a positive direction, and she does so by leading the charge. She was an active member of PCC’s Phi Teta Kappa, Alpha Upsilon Theta chapter. She participated in all activities, traveled to conferences to represent PCC on regional and local levels. Ms. Woody demonstrated her belief in the honors program by donating generously to future projects for PTK members. She is active in her community. She has developed scholarships to remove financial barriers for other students in the community. She developed a scholarship in memory of her daughter who was an instructor here at PCC. She is an absolute gem to PCC and the community.”

When asked about what she would tell someone considering returning to college, her advice: “Never stop learning.”

Serving Person and Caswell counties, PCC is a public two-year institution operating under the direction of a local Board of Trustees and a dedicated leadership team.  PCC transforms lives, strengthens community, and inspires individuals to excellence. PCC strives to be recognized nationally for achieving exceptional levels of success in student learning and completion, gainful employment, equity, and affordability. Visit for more information.

Felicia Holt

Felicia Holt is the communications specialist for Piedmont Community College (PCC). She was previously the executive assistant to the president at PCC. Holt is also a news contributor for the website NewReleaseToday.