Student stories: Taking risks to reach their goals

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

New community college graduates, young and old, serve to inspire.

Every community college graduate has a story. As commencements are held across the nation this month, here are a few stories of some new graduates.

Taking a long shot

Abigail Brand is the youngest graduate of the 2021 class at Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County Community College (MCCC). At 15 years old, Brand earned her associate degree in liberal studies and a specialty certificate in public relations. She plans to pursue her bachelor’s degree in strategic communications.

She also served as this year’s student commencement speaker, where the emphasized the need to take risks.

“Taking a long shot can be scary, because there’s always a chance you might miss,” said Brand, during her video-recorded message. “But, if we stand on the sidelines, we completely lose the chance to succeed. So go ahead. Take that shot. Because in the end, when we look back, our biggest regret isn’t our failures. It’s our missed opportunities.”

Slow and steady

Kenneth Frisbie, Jr., a spry 90-year-old, is among the more than 3,000 graduates participating in Tallahassee Community College’s (TCC’s) spring virtual commencement celebration.

Frisbie began his second associate degree at TCC in the paralegal/legal studies program in 2011. He is a testament of how the slow and steady wins the race. Frisbie got inspired to return to college at church.

“One day I was talking to the kids about how important education was and my daughter was there [who works at TCC] and she said ‘dad you be in my office tomorrow morning’ and on that Monday morning I was registered for classes,” he said in a TCC release.

Frisbie’s great granddaughter, Carra Whaley, is currently enrolled at TCC and studying to become a nurse.

Just getting started

Austin Community College District (ACC) student Ashley Silva didn’t have a traditional path to college. She grew up in a non-traditional host family and won a battle with cancer before becoming a mother in her early 20s.

“My daughter was one of the main reasons that I wanted to go back to school. When she was just two, I became a single mother. For me, going to school was the only option. I had certificates but didn’t have any other skill sets or something to fall back on to provide for her,” said Silva, who received the ACC Chancellor Student Achievement Award.

She enrolled at ACC in 2017. During her time at the college, Ashley took advantage of just about every free student support resource the college offered, including child care, financial aid, scholarships and additional financial support through ACC’s partnership with Capital Idea.

On May 15, she graduated – debt-free – from ACC with an associate degree in surgical technology.

“I want to be able to help people, the way they helped me during my cancer treatments. It is a good feeling to bring hope to someone’s life they might not have had prior. It brings me a lot of gratitude to have survived what I survived and also to be able to show support and compassion to other people who are suffering,” Silva said.

She will start her career as a surgical technician with St. David’s Healthcare and plans to continue going to school. She wants to earn a doctorate in health sciences.

Have some inspiring stories of your college’s graduates? Sound off at LinkedIn.

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.