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(Updated at 05:38 am on Monday, January 26, 2015)

Skye and Ryan Richards

Skye and Ryan Richards standing next to the 100 Building Skye and Ryan Richards plan to use their education in Nicaragua for mission work.

Skye and Ryan Richards are not typical Haywood Community College students. But, as Skye explains, there is no typical student at HCC. The couple attends college as a married couple which adds a nice twist to their reason to succeed. “We compete with each other,” explains Ryan. “Right now, we both have a 4.0 grade point average. But we’re just waiting on the other one to slip up.”

Skye sees the experience as a way to encourage each other to try harder. “It’s more motivation. We have a life together and that means we want to make the best of it.”

Ryan is the first to admit that he wasn’t a model high school student. He grew up in a football town in Minnesota which meant he kind of just coasted through. “But at HCC the teachers are great. They make it all clear.” He believes his strong faith in God has made a difference in his behavior. “Skye and God are the reasons I am at HCC.”

Ryan also spent a few years in the marble and granite business before returning to school. “It was a dead end job,” he says. “I could never get ahead. It was hard labor and not much money.”

Ryan is enrolled in the Associate in Science program. He hopes to transfer to a four-year school, study chemical engineering, and work in the energy field.

As for Skye, she came to HCC straight from Pisgah. “I was not sure what I wanted to do,” she explains. “I didn’t want to spend all the money it takes to go to a four-year school when I didn’t even know what I wanted to do.”

Skye is enrolled in the Associate in Arts program. Like Ryan, she plans to transfer to a four-year school to become a counselor.

But the couple has more plans than to just get bachelor’s degrees. They want to use what they learn in school to return to Nicaragua for mission work. They went on their first trip this year.

“It was unbelievable,” Skye says. “It’s something everyone should do. We don’t realize how good we have it until you see they way they live. I got so much more out of it than the people there did.”

As part of Pinnacle Church’s mission team, the Richards ministered to kids, visited hospitals, and spent a lot of time building relationships.

“I knew I wanted to do something for God,” Ryan says. “I just didn’t know what. It was worth so much more than just sending money, to go and see and be involved.”

Both Skye and Ryan believe their education will allow them to help the Nicaraguans more. “We’ll be able to help them in ways they can’t help themselves,” Ryan explains. “I would love to help them start a water system.”

The Richards also know that an education will help them in their own lives here in the United States, providing them with more opportunities.

Skye learned first hand from both her parents how valuable an education is. Both of them are graduates of HCC. Her mom, Melissa James graduated from the school in 1996 with an Associate in Arts degree. She continued her education at Western Carolina University and received a degree in nursing. She now works at the VA Medical Center in Asheville. Ironically, Skye will graduate with her dad, Frank James this spring. He will receive a degree in Horticulture.

For now the Richards will continue their game of healthy intimidation and encouragement at school. Both striving to keep straight As and to keep from letting one outdo the other. Hey, Bs are really not so bad!

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