Updated: Mar 19
I spent the better part of the past decade and a half participating in my Professional Driving career. A career I started in 2007, following in my father’s footsteps despite his strenuous objection. Throughout this journey I became a single father, challenging custody and being awarded sole custody of my daughter at the age of two. In order to achieve this, I came off the road and found a local job with one of the beer distributors in the Asheville area.
“Why does he mention this?” You may ask. I do so because time has been the prevailing factor in many of the decisions I’ve made over the past decade. I needed to have a job that allowed me the time to raise my daughter. I spent most of the decade working in the same job during which my relationship status changed. A person who is now my ex came into the picture. We were building a life, looking towards many of the goals that most couples do. She had taken over many of the parental duties while I worked. I mention this because I made a decision after much discussion to pursue a position with a different company. This position would require overnight trips and demand much more of my time than my previous endeavor. In addition to raising the children we had together, she became an integral part of the raising of my daughter, allowing me to take a much higher salaried job with a more intense time demand. The salary was great, but the time demand took an unexpected toll on every aspect of my life. Award ceremonies missed, Concerts missed, dinner table discussions few and far between. Opportunities to listen to stories from the man that raised me before he passed in September of 2015… missed.
Thanksgiving of 2015 missed. This thanksgiving wasn’t missed intentionally. My family circled around a hospital bed this Thanksgiving. Watching me as I lay for the second day in a medically induced state of sedation. The trigger that would eventually lead to the realization that life was passing me by while I worked. The salary that kept the house going kept me away from the family that waited at home for me. An undercooked sandwich that ravaged an exhausted body got the best of me and turned an early morning trip into a morning filled with twisted metal and broken bones. As I spent the next six months helping my body to repair the broken bones and lacerations, I wish I could say I finally realized the crippling effect the time demand had on the fabric of my family. As that sixth month neared, I eagerly awaited the day I would be cleared to continue working. No thoughts of change, only those of going back to work. To paying the bills. My salary being my primary focus. This focus, disregarding my family’s subtle, but not so subtle need for time. Long story short, the lifestyle I had geared my future towards imploded soon thereafter. The reverberations of its effects last to this day. Again, you may ask why this is important. It’s easy to claim that this life has thrown out more obstacles than most, but to understand my path I felt it necessary to give insight as to what led me to my eventual enrollment in this program.
For the next six months after my family unit disintegrated, I knew something had to change. I had found local work, but this “burden” of time still scratched on my door. I couldn’t find work that would be conducive to once again raising my daughter on my own. What paid well kept me from home for sixteen hours a day, and what allowed me the time was sporadic at best, filled with uncertainty. I knew something had to change. After months of self-reflection, and numerous hours comparing job statistics, I made the decision to enroll at Haywood Community College. I found a career that I would enjoy, would be financially viable, and would afford me the family time I so desperately wanted and needed.
I attempted, unsuccessfully, to gear my life towards the new endeavor of being a full-time student. I moved into a much smaller and affordable place, I planned ahead and gave notice well in advance to the company I was working for upon my entrance to college and shed as many bills as I possibly could in order to prepare. What I didn’t anticipate was the decision by my employer to essentially work me on a per-diem basis, only giving a handful of workdays a month. Needless to say, I began to struggle. I managed to skirt through my first two semesters financially. This work schedule crippling my ability to simply pay the bills. The daunting task of continuing certainly weighed on me. I could not see a viable option to continue my coursework with the limited hours I was available to work. It just wasn’t financially viable.
One serendipitous moment in the school hallways altered this dismal perception, and offered the greatest impact. Re-introducing the positivity I was woefully disregarding. While on my way to do the simple task of voiding my bladder, a bulletin board next to the restrooms dawned information for the Finish Line Grant. At this point in my student life I had applied often for any scholarship or grant I could find, with decent success (another aspect that helped give me the financial viability to continue). The decision to find out more is what led me to the WIOA program at Mountain Projects and the wonderful Hazel Thompson. Finding out there were programs that would aid in my success gave me renewed vigor. Not simply for scholarship sake, but for the non-scholarly aspects of life. The programs that would help purchase heating oil for my house. My house that for over a month I had only managed to dampen the cold with help of secondhand electric heaters. For the programs that would eventually aid in covering the rent, removing the realistic fear of homelessness. The programs that would aid in purchasing the gas to make it to the school. These programs created an opportunity for me to push through the barriers I was facing. These obstacles that would stifle my ability at best, and completely obliterate my chances of finishing, at worst.
This (I know… finally) brings me to where I am today, sitting at my desk, telling you about how these programs helped me to succeed. This past December I graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Collision Repair program at Haywood Community College. I still have a long path towards more financial freedom, but I now have the skill set and opportunity to achieve that goal. I am proud to say I quickly found work within my industry. I found a place to continue learning and honing my trade at Accelerated Collision Repair/Recouped Automotive with a boss/owner that is investing in my future, not only giving work experience, but contributing to the purchase of tools. Most importantly, the time I so often hemorrhaged working, now gives me the opportunity to be the “annoying” dad that’s “always” around.
In closing, I will say the path to graduation was a long and arduous one, but through the help of the individuals within the Financial Aid Office at HCC and the amazing staff within the NC Works program I would not be in the position I am so gratefully in today. With the help of Hazel Thompson and this program, I have been given the opportunity to succeed in my student path, my career path, and as a Father. I will continue to be grateful for all that has been done to help me prosper in my endeavors to better the life of myself and my family.
Thank you for sharing your success story, Adam! Great work, Mountain Projects! We are grateful for all you do and all the people you help!
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This success story has been edited for clarity.