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May 08 2012
This article was published on May 08 2012 and was archived on May 09 2013. The information below may be outdated or inaccurate.
As graduation approaches at New River Community College, four of this year's graduates recall what it took to get them to this day and ponder where they'll go from here.
Elizabeth Wray's life had been turned upside-down when she came to NRCC, but here, she found a deep passion for serving others that she didn't know she had.
Jacob Beauseigneur discovered that he could further his lifelong interest in video games and animation right here in the New River Valley - turning his fantasy, into reality.
Allison Smelser wasn't looking for a big change when she set out to get her education. Her time at NRCC led to two technical degrees that helped strengthen her skills so she could get ready to take over her family's business.
Steven Cobbs was giving college a second try when he came to NRCC. Here, he learned that there are lots of ways to make work, life and academic success fit together.
Elizabeth Wray - finding a passion
Finding a true passion is something everyone strives for. But often, the path is not as straight and as smooth as we'd like. For Pulaski resident Elizabeth Wray, it took a personal struggle and some academic uncertainty before she found herself on the path to her true passion in NRCC's human services program. Wray's route to human services began with a 25-year career in child development. A naturally nurturing person, Wray was well suited to working with children and enjoyed her work. But Wray says two major changes hit her at about the same time and shifted her life's direction.
First, she began caring for her aging parents. After her beloved father passed away, she eventually moved her mother into her home to assist with her care during the last year of her life. Through that experience, Wray says, she saw first-hand the great need for individuals in the human services field - especially those who work with older adults. "But, at the time, I had a full-time job with benefits and even though I had people telling me 'Hey, you're really good at this kind of thing, you should think about it,' I wasn't really thinking about a career change."
That's when her second life-changing event came along - the economy took a turn for the worse and Wray lost her job. "At first, I was hysterical," she says. "I envisioned myself as a bag lady living under the interstate somewhere, but then I said, 'Ok, pick yourself up, it's time to do something."
And she did - she applied and was accepted to NRCC's nursing assistant program. Based on her time spent caring for her mother and the prevalence of job advertisements for Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA), Wray figured she would enjoy the field and find work easily, which she did. When she became a CNA in 2009, Wray felt the next natural step was to continue her nursing career and was accepted into NRCC's practical nursing program. She began the program and worked hard. But about halfway into her first semester, Wray says doubt began to creep in about whether she was really headed down the right path. "I wondered if this really was where I wanted to be," she says.
Wray finished her semester in the practical nursing program and after talking with her counselors and instructors, decided to make the switch to human services. It turned out to be a fateful decision. "The very first day of class, my instructor started talking about what it meant to be in human services and I was totally enraptured. I just knew - this is right, this is where I need to be."
Wray credits her instructors with more than just drawing her into the program. She says their enthusiasm for the field and willingness to help serve as a great motivator. "I've had great relationships with all of my instructors," says Wray. Her eyes began to mist with emotion as she talked about two of her human services instructors - Bonnie Graham and Becky Hubble. "They have so much passion," she says. "Not only for the program itself, but just for life and wanting to see us do well. Their con