Betty Johnson, a 36-year-old mother of three, walked across the stage to pick up her associate degree in accounting Friday night.
She was one of 268 students who received degrees from Wilson Community College this semester and one of 200 who attended commencement exercises at Fike High School.
“It feels amazing,” said Johnson, a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society for students who earned a grade-point average of 3.5 or greater.
“I plan to go into a banking industry and use my skills there,” Johnson said. “I am planning on coming back and finishing my business administration degree, so I just want to enter a financial institution and make it pop.”
Johnson said when she was younger, she didn’t graduate from high school and had to go back to get her high school equivalency diploma.
“When I was able to go back to school, it was my dream to go and get my degree, so that’s why I am here,” Johnson said. “I just want to show my children that no matter what age you are, no matter what you have to do, you can further your education and make it what you want.”
“I worked hard for this accounting degree. I finished it in three semesters. I told my adviser, ‘I am taking as many classes as I need to walk in 2019,’” Johnson said. “So summer, I did 15 credits, got on the President’s List, fall, 21 (credits), made Dean’s List, and spring, 2019, President’s List, 18 credits. I wanted my daughters to see you can work hard, but I wanted them to do it while they are younger and not wait until they are older and have a lot of responsibilities. I wanted to show them that it’s not impossible.”
Emily Weppler of Wilson, who graduated from Hunt High School in 2012, earned an associate in science transfer degree.
“I am using it to transfer to Appalachian State University this fall,” Weppler said. “I am going to work on a bachelor of arts in mathematics because I think I should study some things that I am interested in and then I will fall into something that way.”
Weppler said she enjoyed every minute at WCC.
“The faculty has been super helpful and I can’t believe it’s over,” Weppler said. “It feels weird. I am really proud of myself because on top of the fact that I earned the degree, I also paid for most of it out of my own pocket every semester. I am really proud of myself. It is amazing. I didn’t think I would ever do it when I dropped out of college the first time.”
Romallus La’Mar Dew graduated from Wilson Early College Academy Thursday night and from WCC on Friday.
Dew said WECA was like a second family to him.
“The career counselor there is like a mother to me and the principal was always looking out for me,” Dew said. “It is really like a close-knit family.”
Dew earned an associate degree in science for college transfer Friday night.
“I was more focused on math and biology and stuff like that,” Dew said. “So now I am going to Chapel Hill next month, so there I will be majoring in computer science or biomedical engineering. And from there I am going into the Navy. I am going to be a surface warfare officer.”
Bethany Jewel Cone of Wilson graduated from Beddingfield High School in 2013 and on Friday, she walked across the stage to pick up two associate degrees, one in accounting and one in business administration.
“I started in 2013 in the fall and I have been attending college for six years,” Cone said. “I have two degrees and I also found out I was pregnant in November of 2018. I have either worked two or three jobs my whole college career or (worked) full-time and I will probably stay at the place I work now, which is Estes Express Lines.”
Cone plans to give birth to a baby soon and then she will return to a full-time work schedule.
To earn the two degrees, she added six to eight classes in her last semester.
“I worked doing homework from the time I got home until the time I went to sleep and every weekend Saturday and Sunday I did homework every day,” Cone said. “I can’t believe i made it and I’m glad it’s over.”
Cone said getting the degrees will improve her life and that of her baby.
“I do because I will have more opportunities in life as a mom and as a young woman,” Cone said.
Wilson County Sheriff Calvin Woodard, a 1990 graduate of Wilson Community College, was the keynote speaker.
“Now that you have achieved this great accomplishment, put those certificates and diplomas to work,” Woodard told the graduates. “Dream big and always remain focused. This is your time to shine and when you shine, make sure it is so bright that others have to wear sunglasses.”
Woodard told the students to thank everyone who has done something for them.
“Develop an attitude of gratitude,” Woodard said. “Do not lose your motivation.”
“Throw that line of success in that ocean of relentless opportunities and reel in your blessings,”Woodard said. “Then you will know that your yesterday, today and tomorrow will be your salutation to the ever new dawn of your ever glowing light as this is just the beginning to no end of your future.”