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For Kimberly Maria Newcomb, Wilson Community College offered a second chance.
The 29-year-old Lucama resident was one of 24 adult secondary education graduates to walk across the stage at DelMastro Auditorium and receive high school equivalency diplomas or adult high school diplomas Thursday.
“I never thought I would accomplish anything in life, and I just felt like I wanted to do something to change,” said Newcomb, mother of three daughters. “I hit rock bottom, and I knew I needed a change in my life and I did it.”
Newcomb said it is “never too late” to go back to school.
“You can always change and start a new beginning,” Newcomb said. “You just have to keep pushing yourself and never give up on yourself.”
It took Newcomb four months to accomplish her goal.
“I am just really proud of myself,” Newcomb said.
Hayward Humphrey, WCC director of continuing education, said about 60 students had completed the program since last year but only 24 came Thursday to walk across the stage.
“There are some that are very emotional because there were some challenges in terms of the classes they took, particularly math was a challenge, but they made it,” Humphrey said. “I am grateful and thankful for that.”
Humphrey said in order to get into the job market, at minimum you need a high school diploma or a high school equivalency diploma.
“To be competitive, I think you also need that credential,” Humphrey said.
Victoria Maria Brockington, 28, of Wilson received her high school diploma Thursday.
Brockington had dropped out of Hunt High School in the tenth grade to help her mother support her and her two little brothers after their father died.
“My grandma kept pushing me, but I looked at it like, ‘Well, I’ve got a job,’ Brockington said. “I was working, and then it’s like in order to get more money, that really does count. At the moment I am working two jobs just to make ends meet, and by me accomplishing this goal, I can work one job and be good.”
Brockington went back over several years and when it came time to take the tests, she would be two or three points off, and she would give up.
“It has been an ongoing thing for probably about five years,” Brockington said. “I would stop and come back. This time I just didn’t give up. I didn’t take any classes. I just came in and took the tests and passed them. It is a major accomplishment, and I am ready to do more. I am looking forward to taking some more classes because this graduation feeling is exciting.”
Humphrey said the diplomas are a foundation for further learning.
“Once you transition to our program and graduate, I think you are aptly prepared to go on to higher education,” Humphrey said. “Our students tend to do very well once they once they transition into other diploma programs or other credentialing programs that we have here at the community college.”
Jessica Nicole Cooper, a Wilson native, said it didn’t take long at all to get her coursework done.
“I was in school at Fike High School, and then I got pregnant and I decided to go and get my GED and make it a little faster so I could stay home with my child,” Cooper said.
Her baby is now 4 months old.
“It didn’t take me long to get my GED, probably a month and a half,” Cooper said. “It was hard with the tests and stuff, but I did good and the experience was great. You just put your mind to it and you can accomplish anything. I would like to say that I am proud to be the girlfriend of a cop. He is a police officer in Tarboro. He just took the BLET class here. His parents are very supportive of me.”
Some of the students had written messages on their caps.
The top of Tamera Ambrocio Thomas’ hat said, “The end of the chapter, but my story continues.”
The phrase was in Spanish.
“I put first generation because I am first generation Mexican-American. I am the first in my family to graduate,” Thomas said. “I did already do a CNA course here at Wilson Community College, and I am going to get my associate degree already for medical assistant.”
“In the very end I want to be a pediatric nurse,” Thomas said. “It is a passion of mine. I really love children.”
In his keynote speech, Wilson Mayor Bruce Rose told graduates as they began to think about their next step, to think about public service.
“I have dedicated my entire life to public service, and I have found that it has been very, very satisfying to me,” Rose said.
Rose encouraged graduates to master their craft, whatever it happened to be.
“If you are going to be a musician, the more you practice, the more you enjoy performing. If you are a photographer, you will be better at taking pictures if you understand your camera’s controls,” Rose said. “If you are a doctor, you will need to follow the research on new medicines and treatment options. Whatever you do, try to be the best you can and always strive to become even better.”
Rose congratulates the class.
“It is my desire that God will bless each one of you in all of your endeavors and that you get a good job and that you live here in Wilson,” Rose said.