Shannon Smith is on a new journey in Wilkes County with a new sense of purpose, equipped with knowledge for success, as he begins a career with Communities In Schools. And, he credits Wilkes Community College for being a springboard on his road to success.
Shannon graduated from Wilkes Community College in 2010 with an Associate in Arts degree and transferred to Gardner-Webb University through the GOAL program. Greater Opportunities for Adult Learners (GOAL) provides opportunities for students to continue their studies culminating in a baccalaureate degree. GWU’s GOAL program allowed Shannon to take his classes online and on the campus of Wilkes Community College. He graduated from GWU in May with a B.A. in Business Administration and a B.A. in Human Services.
“If it were not for Wilkes Community College there would be no Bachelor’s in Business Administration and Human Services from Gardner-Webb University. I would not be at Communities In Schools if it was not for where I began,” he says.
Shannon recently joined Communities In Schools wearing two hats, “Wise Guys” instructor at Wilkes Central High School and site coordinator at Central Wilkes Middle School.
The “Wise Guys” program is in accordance to the Healthy Youth Act and is taught to male freshmen. The class focuses on teaching about the changes these young men are facing and addressing the responsibilities that they will encounter in their future. Some of the lessons covered by “Wise Guys” are masculinity and gender roles, dealing with stress, fatherhood, interactions with sexes, sexually transmitted diseases and puberty.
“As a ‘Wise Guys’ instructor, I will be teaching at Wilkes Central High School weekly. As a Communities In Schools site coordinator, I will be working with a quarter of the student body at Central Wilkes Middle School. This will include one-on-one sessions, lunch groups and social groups inside and outside of school. I will serve as an independent adult who advocates for students.”
Besides crediting WCC for his academic success and his new career, Shannon also holds many WCC instructors in high esteem for their contributions to his success.
“From the time I started at WCC, I had instructors that took me under their wing and showed me that they actually cared about my future. Instructors such as Cindy Killian, Dr. David Ritter, Marty Franklin, Daryl Finney, Alan Richie, Kimberly Tetzlaff, my advisor Julie Mullis and a host of other faculty and staff would do things to help boost my confidence, offer encouragement, make me laugh, and most importantly challenge me to succeed in my everyday life,” says Shannon. “Their teaching methods were great, but I gained the most insight through intangible aspects that many students overlook from time to time. It’s true that some instructors are likable and smart or can teach well but you can really measure an instructor by how much time they spend willingly to help their students outside of the classroom. This will help me in my career especially as an instructor because I have so many good role models to consider when I serve my students.”
Shannon described WCC as a springboard into higher learning. He says that the community college allowed him the time to mature and become a better person because of the nurturing environment offered.
“When I step onto the campus as a visitor now, I think of all the great memories that I had in the student lounge, the college game room, and the various classrooms. I also think about all the people at WCC who cared for me even when I didn’t. Lastly, I think about how grateful I am to be a graduate from this great school,” he says. “My graduation ceremony in May 2010 made way for the ceremony I attended in May of this year. I would have never appreciated my Bachelor’s degrees as much as I do if it was not for obtaining my associate degree and the pride that I felt when it hit my hand. My future would not have been complete without Wilkes Community College.”
In fact, in 2010 when Shannon graduated, 132 students used WCC as a springboard into four-year institutions within the University of North Carolina System. Of the 132 transfer students, 85 transferred with 30 or more transfer hours and 47 earned an associate degree before transferring.
According to a snapshot report released by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center in 2012, nearly three-quarters of students who earn an associate degree before transferring to a four-year college graduated with a bachelor’s degree within four years of transferring.
Carrie B. Kisker, director of the Center for the Study of Community Colleges, a nonprofit research and policy center in Los Angeles, said the report was important for two reasons: “first, because it reinforces the importance of community colleges in increasing the number of bachelor’s degrees in America; and second, because it clearly demonstrates that earning an associate degree prior to transfer leads to greater baccalaureate attainment.”
“The academic success of these students may be attributable in part to the increased individual attention offered at community colleges, which tend to be smaller and offer a lower student-to-instructor ratio than larger four-year colleges and universities,” explains Dr. Dean Sprinkle, senior vice president of Instruction at WCC. “Here at WCC, the college as a whole has a personal commitment and investment in the success of every student enrolled here.”
Shannon says that he felt that commitment to his success from many faculty and staff members who helped him at WCC.
“But I have to say that Tamara Grayson stands out in my mind for definitely going beyond the call of duty to help me. I only had one class with Ms. Grayson but in that one class I could tell how passionate she was towards art and her profession as an instructor,” he says. “Ms. Grayson and I spoke more outside of the classroom then we did in. As soon as I walked across the stage and received my degree, she was the first instructor that hugged and congratulated me. Every time she shopped at my old job, Lowe’s Home Improvement, she always wanted to know how I was doing and how far along I was furthering my education, and she always left me with words of encouragement. In my eyes it felt like she was taking the journey with me.”
As the character Abram Saru said in “Seers of Light” by Jennifer DeLucy, “No matter the deviation, all things come full circle. You begin and end your journey in the same place, but with a different set of eyes.”
Shannon Smith began his journey in Wilkes County and now returns home with a new vision of where he wants to go in his career and in life. He plans to eventually obtain a master’s degree in school or mental health counseling with a goal of being a college professor or college advisor. He will be offering to college students the same gifts of support and guidance that he found as a student at Wilkes Community College.