It is a special year for Wilkes Community College human services student Natalie Helms and her two daughters. During May, all three will become graduates of their respective colleges and school. Natalie will graduate from WCC, Kaitlyn will graduate from UNC Charlotte with a political science degree, and Alani will graduate from West Wilkes High School with honors.

Helms came to the area in 2001 and calls Wilkes County home. “In the spring of 2016 I was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia and for the four weeks prior to being diagnosed, I was terrified knowing I was sick, but not knowing how bad it might be. During those weeks I reflected on my life and realized I had some regrets; not furthering my education was a big one. I decided then that I would enroll, sick or not, and that is how my journey began at WCC,” explains Helms of her reasons for attending college.

“I chose the human services program because I feel it’s a program that you do not really have a desire to go into until life has kicked you around a bit,” stated Helms. Helms’ life experiences included a difficult divorce, the loss of her mother to cancer, and a life changing accident that happened to her brother. She wanted to be able to help others and saw human services as that pathway.

Erica Harper, WCC lead instructor of the Human Services Program stated, “Natalie is an excellent student and will be a great asset to any agency.” Helms completed a work-based learning experience at Wilkes Department of Social Services in the Medicaid unit during her third semester, the fall of 2017. Her performance resulted in an employment offer in the Food and Nutrition Services Department in January 2018 and she began work on February 1, 2018. Helm’s supervisor, Penny Barlow said, “The transition was an easy one because of her experience.” According to Helms, “This job has allowed me to do exactly what I set as my goal to do; help those in need. It is extremely rewarding for me and earning my degree at WCC opened that door for me.”

Natalie and her daughters