Graduates Overcome Challenges to Earn College Degrees
Davidson County Community College will celebrate more than a thousand success stories during its 53rd commencement exercises set for Saturday, May 14th at 10 a.m., on the Davidson Campus.
The college will confer 602 associate degrees, 174 diplomas and 771 certificates to 1,043 graduates, with some receiving more than one credential. Many overcame financial and other personal challenges on the path to earning credentials that will lead to new careers, higher educational goals and better lives.
“For many of our students, success at commencement is only the beginning,” says Dr. Mary Rittling, president. “As they continue to pursue careers and educational goals the lessons they’ve learned in and out of the classroom while attending DCCC will help propel them into a bright future.”
Two of those students, welding graduate Derrek Ballard of Thomasville and accounting graduate Melody Barrows of Mocksville, both will graduate on Saturday.
Ballard dropped out of high school at the age of 16 and started working at a fast food restaurant. Realizing he needed more to support his family, he eventually secured work in the furniture industry. He then determined that if he wanted to advance his future he would need to advance his education. That meant returning to the classroom.
He achieved his first educational goal when he earned his GED diploma.
“Along the way, I tried welding and loved it,” says Ballard, who is graduating with honors. “From there I came straight to DCCC. At first I wanted to do it on my own but that was difficult. I realized the staff and everyone was here to help me.”
Ballard’s DCCC experience extended beyond academics. He served two terms in student government, holding the positions of senator and treasurer.
“I learned important leadership lessons such as listening to what others have to say in order to better understand how to help them,” says Ballard.
When asked what he’s most looking forward to, Ballard responds “happiness.” He recently secured full-time employment in his field.
Barrows, a wife and mother of three, had an overwhelming desire to be able to tell her children she was a high school graduate when she came to the Davie Campus to earn her GED diploma. Her plan was always to earn a college degree, but what she didn’t expect was to become financially responsible for herself at the beginning of her junior year of high school.
“Life throws you curve balls and bumps but you must overcome them or become stuck,” Barrows says. “I want my children to see that no matter what life throws at them they can succeed at anything they have a desire to do.”
Barrows still had something to prove to herself and her family, and continued her journey to an improved life by enrolling in the college’s challenging accounting program. That meant balancing family schedules with a full course load that included 30-minute commutes to and from the Davidson Campus each day.
“Taking care of my kids and changing different schedules around was tough but doable as school is a priority of mine,” Barrows notes. She credits the encouragement of her accounting instructors as an important factor in her success.
In addition to fulfilling family and school responsibilities, Barrows volunteered for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program that provides free income tax preparation for low income and elderly citizens. She was inducted into the college’s Phi Theta Kappa academic honor society and graduates with high honors. In the fall, she will begin pursuit of her bachelor’s degree in accounting, with a concentration in forensic accounting.
Students from all walks of life succeed at DCCC and are supported from the moment they enter our community,” says Susan Burleson, vice president of student success and communications. “Our focus on helping all students complete their programs of study is exemplified in all DCCC has to offer, including opportunities for academic excellence, leadership and service, and professional development.”
U.S. Sen. Richard M. Burr, (R-NC) will deliver the commencement address during the commencement ceremony. The college’s 2016 Academic Excellence Award winner will be introduced, and the first recipients of the newly endowed Robert Bruce Smith, Jr. Student Success Scholarship.