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From GED to 4.0 GPA college student

Mar 28, 2024

Cierra Marlowe didn’t have an easy time in high school, where teachers did not recognize her potential.

“In class, the teacher would tell us to open our textbook and read from this page to this page, and that we’d have a quiz tomorrow,” she said. “They wouldn’t tell us what we needed to learn, so I would take notes on what I thought was important, but none of that would end up on the quiz and I would fail. The teachers just said I wasn’t paying attention.”

Still intent on finishing high school, Marlowe left the traditional campus setting to earn her diploma online, an option that was not free like the public school system. But an unstable home life led her to drop out completely.

Student Success

Marlowe moved out at age 18, using an inheritance from her father to buy a modest fixer-upper home.

“I lived there and worked at Proctor and Gamble for two years,” she said. But then Covid happened, and she found herself out of a job.

“I didn’t have my GED so nobody wanted to hire me. I started working at a car repair shop making minimum wage, and then The Salvation Army had a position in their retail store so they hired me, which jumpstarted my journey,” Marlowe said.

And what a journey it has been.

“I got married in 2022, and that started a whole new chapter. I had to better myself to be the woman my husband married and how he saw me, and I wanted to fulfill that,” Marlowe said. As the couple started their life together, she soon realized she needed more financial stability for the future.

Noticing Marlowe’s work ethic, The Salvation Army’s store manager urged her to pursue her GED.

Marlowe took the advice, and enrolled in the High School Equivalency Diploma program at Rockingham Community College in January 2023.

“I was nervous and shy and that was not going to get me anywhere. Not wanting to do it is the reason why I didn’t get my GED until I was 24 years old. I just had to do it because that’s how you get results,” Marlowe said.

GED classes were a mix of on campus and in-person learning.

“The staff were nice and very pleasant. The way that they taught was exactly how I wanted to learn, because it was through lectures. You’re told what to learn and you write it down, and that’s the best way to know what you need to know,” she said.

Marlowe finished the GED program just in time to enroll in summer 2023 as an official college student at RCC.

She is in the Fine Arts program, working toward a two-year associate degree – and she’s maintaining a 4.0 grade-point average.

“RCC has been amazing. It’s a lot different from high school. There’s no drama and everybody is like family. Opinions usually cause discourse, but we have discussions. We are a community,” she said.

Marlowe has been in her element being able to learn from lectures.

“Some people don’t get [what’s being taught], so you need to communicate with the teacher and ask questions,” she said. “The teachers here tell you what you need to know and if you understand it, you can pass.”

Marlowe has even become involved in campus life, and encourages other students to join the Art Club.

“It’s not specifically for people in the Fine Arts program. Anybody can be in it and join us for things like drawing landscapes outside or going to the Raleigh Museum of Art,” she said.

Marlowe’s love of art began in her childhood, when her sister introduced her to anime, which is now her career goal.

While anime conjures up images of a creator sitting at a computer designing artwork, Marlowe said there are traditional art skills involved.

“There’s a niche for different things. Some people might want a painting of their favorite character, and others might just want a sketch. Traditional media is coming back into fashion and is become more valuable now than the computer stuff,” she said. “When you storyboard, that’s with pencil. The computer can’t do everything. You have to have the skill to draw on a piece of paper, put it up there, and then walk through the story. 2D is still very much alive.”

As a youngster, Marlowe found the niche of anime with which she connects.

“It started off with Sailor Moon, but that wasn’t really my thing. Then it went to Inuyasha, about a middle-school girl in Japan who falls into a mystical well and gets transported to medieval Japan and has to fight demons. It was totally cool,” she said.

“Being a little girl with The Powerpuff Girls and that anime, I liked TV shows that showed kids doing more than what you’d expect a kid to do,” she said. “I would draw things from the show, and would put myself into the show with fan art.”

She also enjoyed video games like Spyro and Crash.

“I want to make things that inspired me the way those shows and games did. I want to be the creator that inspires a little girl or a little boy to want to put something into the world that was their imagination,” she said. And while she may not fully realize it, Marlowe herself is living proof of overcoming obstacles and bringing what she imagined to life.


Rockingham Community College
PO Box 38
215 Wrenn Memorial Rd.
Wentworth, NC 27375


Monday to Thursday:
8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Friday: 8:00 am – 12:00 pm


336-349-9986 (fax)