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Posted on 05/30/13

RCC Student Essays Explain Life Changes

Rockingham Community College changes lives.  It’s a message the college works to spread.  It’s a reality that creates joy in its employees.  And it’s a truth written about every year during the RCC Foundation’s Essay Contest by students whose lives have been changed.

For this year’s essays, contest entrants used the theme, “RCC: The Key to My Future.”  There is no entry rule stating contestants have to elaborate on how the college has changed their lives.  But every year, that’s what students highlight. 
First place winner, Michael Johnson of Reidsville, wrote about the day an accident left him confined to a wheelchair.  Once athletically active, Johnson had decisions to make about his future.

“I couldn’t let my disability stop my life or allow self-pity to linger.  My wheelchair would not define me,” Johnson wrote.  “I needed my nine-year-old daughter to understand that we determine the extent of happiness in our lives; not the accidents or pitfalls that sometimes cause us to falter.”

Johnson will graduate in July with a degree in accounting.  As he takes his diploma, he will remember that at RCC, “I was just Michael, a student who wrote case study essays in business law, participated in discussions on moral and ethical issues in ethics class, and sweated bullets during exams in any class.  At RCC, I was allowed to grow outside of the confines of my paralysis…(It was a place that gave) me a sense of being on a team, something I had missed without sports.”

Looking toward a future with a career he knows he will love, Johnson wrote, “My daughter will be able to look at me and see that although we are all fragile and easily damaged, we are all undeniably resilient.”

Facing reality and making decisions echoed in the essay of second place winner, Melissa Easter of Mayodan.  Always an honor roll student with an eye toward college, Easter dreamed of being an attorney.  When her father died, the family could no longer support her dream.  Accepting that reality, Easter forgot college and moved on with her life, eventually becoming the mother of four.  As the next 20 years came and went, Easter recognized the once happy girl had become a bitter, sad woman.

“(I) let it all slip away without a plan, without an education, and without success,” she wrote.

At 40, Easter said she finally understood that education was the key to the success she craved.  Still, she was frightened of being humiliated as an older adult returning to school.  But, she wrote, when she came to RCC she immediately felt at home.

“(It was) the best decision that I ever made,” wrote Easter, who has chosen to pursue a criminal justice degree.  “My classes prepare me for law school and bring me closer to my goals.”

Being a working mom in college hasn’t been easy.  Being an unhappy, unfulfilled woman wasn’t either.

 “I will be that attorney that, as a small town girl, I once dreamed of,” she wrote.  “The dream that was locked away inside my heart will be reality.  Without that fateful visit to a special school, my heart would have always held the dream, but in darkness.  RCC is my light.”

Lightness of heart follows third place winner, Brittany Williams of Eden.

“When I am asked how I like school, I can honestly say I really love my school and being here feels rewarding,” Williams wrote.  “This college is taking me one step at a time to a level of success that I can’t wait to achieve.  A level that no one in my family for three generations has achieved: a college education.”

Williams writes that the support of faculty and staff have helped her as she works to discover what she wants for her future, sometimes a difficult task at 19.  Their caring and willingness to work with her, she said, have made a difference.

“I have met more people than I can count who are so supportive,” she said.  “This college has helped me find myself.  It has helped me realize what is important in my life and how to leave the past where it is and move forward into the best future ever.”

The essayists received $300, $200, and $100 respectively for their entries.  But they would say they have received much more.

Rockingham Community College has changed their lives.  It can change yours.

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